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Can laminitis soon be prevented with a new drug?

Aug 17, 2021

Laminitis is a bugbear for many horse owners, especially if their horses already suffer from Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). And not without reason, as acute or chronic laminitis is the second leading cause of death in the domesticated horse.

But new study results now promise a remedy soon.

Researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Australia have found a drug that can prevent laminitis in ponies.

This new drug for animals is related to a drug for humans that is used to treat metabolic syndrome in humans. In studies, it has prevented laminitis in ponies suffering from the "horse version" of this metabolic disease. An important step on the way to treating this disease of civilization.

Up to 20 percent of all horses and ponies suffer from laminitis


According to Professor Martin Sillence, up to 20 percent of all ponies suffer from laminitis. This is a frightening figure, especially when you consider that until now there has been no medication that could prevent or treat laminitis. Even if your own horse or pony has been spared so far, probably every horse owner knows a horse or pony that has not been so lucky. Adapted feeding has usually been the only way to control the disease.

The research group in Australia has also found out what exactly triggers a deer flare-up in ponies: namely, a high concentration of insulin in the blood. In some of the ponies in the study that ate too much high-energy grass or concentrates, large amounts of glucose were released. This in turn caused the pancreas to pump large amounts into the body, causing "insulin toxicity." This damaged the connective tissue in the ponies' hooves, resulting in lameness and tremendous pain. According to another study, one-third of horses with this form of laminitis had to be euthanized within a year of the first onset of symptoms.

The solution: velagliflozil


A new active ingredient could now solve this problem. Velagliflozil is the name of the miracle drug with which researchers hope to prevent laminitis in the future. By excreting more glucose in the urine, the drug is intended to protect the pancreas and reduce insulin secretion. More clinical trials are currently taking place to ensure the efficacy and safety of the drug, so that it can hopefully be brought to market soon and save many equine lives.

Until this is the case, horse owners will probably have to be patient for some time and, above all, keep a close eye on their horses' feeding. According to Professor Sillence, fresh grass in spring and autumn is particularly dangerous for sensitive horses and ponies. So if they are already suffering from Equine Metanbolic Syndrome, rich grass should be eliminated from their diet. But not only the quality of grass plays a big role in the development of laminitis, but also the quantity. Even large amounts of nutrient-poor grass can trigger laminitis, the professor says.

So let's hope that further studies on the efficacy and tolerability of velagliflozil will be successful and that in the near future we will finally have a drug for the treatment of laminitis. To all horses and ponies already suffering from Equine Metabolic Syndrome and their owners, it would definitely be to be wished!


Reference: Alexandra Meier, Dania Reiche, Melody de Laat, Christopher Pollitt, Donald Walsh, Martin Sillence. The sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitor velagliflozin reduces hyperinsulinemia and prevents laminitis in insulin-dysregulated ponies. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (9): e0203655 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203655.

Found on Sciencedaily.com Queensland University of Technology page. "Giddy up: Help for plump ponies is fast on its way: Researchers have found a drug that prevents laminitis in ponies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180926110933.htm>.

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