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Pfizer Animal Health and the NTRA Team Up to Find a Cure for Equine Laminitis

New York, NY (July 17, 2008) -- Laminitis is a devastating disease that can affect any horse from the top competitor to the back yard companion. Pfizer Animal Health and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Charities -- Barbaro Memorial Fund -- have joined forces to educate horse owners on the importance of finding a cure for laminitis and honor the memory of the late Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who died from complications of the disease.

According to Dr. Rustin M. Moore, DVM, laminitis, which is sometimes referred to as “founder”, is a severely debilitating and painful disorder of the soft tissues (laminae) that connects the hoof wall to the coffin bone1. In the worst cases, the coffin bone may rotate within the hoof, be displaced downward and eventually penetrate the sole2. This disorder can occur in one or all feet, but is most commonly seen in the front hooves or the foot opposite a limb with a severe injury. While some horses that develop laminitis can go on to lead long, useful careers, many others suffer from such irreparable damage that they must be humanely euthanized.

“Laminitis is a disorder that has challenged veterinarians and plagued horse owners both emotionally and financially,” said Robert Holland, DVM, PhD, Senior Veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health. “While the exact cause of laminitis remains a mystery, there are many key factors that are believed to increase the risk of occurrence. Therefore, with careful management practices horse owners and barn managers can do their part to help minimize the risk of laminitis.”

Research performed over the last several decades has shown that certain factors may trigger the onset of the disease, such as digestive upsets caused by grain overload or abrupt changes in diet; sudden access to lush forage, for example fresh grass in the spring; toxins released in the horse’s system; or retained placenta in mares after foaling2. As the tragic case of Barbaro exemplifies, excessive weight bearing on one leg after an injury can lead to laminitis. Metabolic disturbances, including but not limited to, severe colic or high fever may also cause problems. Environmental conditions, such as the ingestion of black walnuts, have also been shown to predispose horses to laminitis.

Veterinarians have come to understand that once a horse has developed laminitis there is a high chance of recurrence. Therefore, extra care and management are recommended for any horse that has had this condition. Affected horses may require a modified diet and routine hoof care which may include trimming and therapeutic shoeing2. Putting the horse on a good health maintenance schedule is also recommended, and should include a parasite control plan with regular deworming and fly control, as well as routine vaccinations. In addition, horses prone to laminitis should avoid grazing in lush pastures, particularly during the morning and late afternoon hours2. While these management practices are important for all horses, they are particularly critical in helping to prevent the recurrence of this disorder.

“Although we have learned a great deal from the research that has been done on laminitis, at this time there is no foolproof way to prevent or cure the condition,” said Dr. Holland. “We are so pleased to support the NTRA’s Barbaro Memorial Fund, which will allow substantial funding for additional research, which could indeed lead to a cure for laminitis.”

For more information on the NTRA Charities -- Barbaro Memorial Fund or to make a donation, visit RidingwithBarbaro.org.

Formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), NTRA Charities is a nonprofit, 501 (c) (3) public charity. NTRA Charities works to improve the communities that are home to Thoroughbred racing and to ensure the health and safety of the sport’s human and equine athletes.

Pfizer, Inc. (NYSE: PFE), the world’s largest research-based biomedical and pharmaceutical company, also is a world leader in discovering and developing innovative animal vaccines and prescription medicines. Pfizer Animal Health is dedicated to improving the safety, quality and productivity of the world’s food supply by enhancing the health of livestock and poultry; and in helping horses and pets to live longer and healthier lives. For additional information on Pfizer’s portfolio of equine products, visit http://www.PfizerAH.com.

1 Moore, Rustin M. DVM. on behalf of the AAEP Foundation, Inc. Barbaro Injury Highlights Need for Laminitis Research Funding. RidingwithBarbaro.org. http://www.ntra.com/ridingwithbarbaro/RWB_research_need.html

2 Laminitis Prevention and Treatment. July 19, 2005. http://www.aaep.org/health_articles_view.php?id=281


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