The latest on laminitis: What veterinarians have learned and what lies ahead

The latest on laminitis: What veterinarians have learned and what lies ahead

Prevention and treatment strategies were highlighted at the recent International Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot.
Mar 01, 2014

Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown wins, and the opening of the International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot (IECLDF), held in November in Florida, was dedicated to the efforts of the equine veterinary community in the area of laminitis.

From the time of Secretariat's death due to the disease in 1989 to present day, there have been significant advances made. This year's conference theme was "Building a Global Team," and the goal was to balance presentations of the latest scientific research and practical information with the opportunity to network and interact with other conference attendees.

James Orsini, DVM, DACVS, associate professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center and co-director of IECLDF, noted Secretariat's case of laminitis, recognizing that during the 1980s "we did not know what the underlying cause for his laminitis was, though it is now thought to most probably be endocrinopathic disease."

"We know much more about laminitis in 2013 than we did in 1989," conceded ­Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, DACVS, professor and chair of the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at The Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Orsini's co-director of IECLDF. "However, we still have not solved the laminitis puzzle. In fact, the more we learn, the more we appreciate how little we really know."

Challenges abound

Figure 1: Acute phase of laminitis. Arrow depicts the inflamed lamellar interface. Rotation or separation of the third phalanx has not yet occurred.
Moore compared what has been accomplished with laminitis to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on research and treatment of various major human diseases. Vision 20/20, a common goal in the equine veterinary community to conquer laminitis by the year 2020, "sets the benchmark for all of our efforts, as well as comparable work in the world of equine care," stated Orsini.

"Although we don't have the same level of funding that is present in human medicine, we have accomplished quite a bit with the available funds," noted Orsini. "But we need to find alternative funding sources to support research if we are to conquer laminitis by 2020. It's important for the National Institutes of Health to recognize the crossovers between human and animal health research."

The main goal of equine practitioners involved in the research, work and treatment of the disease is to aid in recognizing horses that are at risk and provide earlier intervention, thereby increasing the chances for preventive treatment and avoidance of chronic laminitis, stated Orsini.