Western University of Health Sciences has received a grant from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AHVMF) to support clinical research on the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for horses suffering from chronic laminitis, a potentially crippling disease of the feet in horses.

College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Assistant Professor Babak Faramarzi, DVM, will conduct the study with the assistance of noted equine acupuncture specialist

Kevin May, DVM.

With the help of the $26,515 grant from AHVMF, the project will work with local veterinarians and horse breeders for one year. Horses accepted into the study will receive treatment at no cost. Participating animals must have been diagnosed with the condition for 30 days or more, and owners must agree to forego other treatments for the animal while it participates in the study.

“Standard acupuncture has a long history of being used on horses and other animals, but proof of its effectiveness is mostly anecdotal,” Dr. Faramarzi said. “Our study is unique because it will use evidence-based research practices to determine the effectiveness of standard acupuncture techniques in relieving chronic laminitis and associated pain and discomfort in horses. We will use two techniques, one traditional and one technology-based, to determine horses’ pain levels before and after treatment.”

The cause of the Laminitis is unclear. It involves inflammation or swelling of structures called “laminae” in an animal’s hooves, which help absorb and dissipate the weight of the animal as it moves. The disease can cause excruciating pain, and in some cases leads to euthanizing the patient, according to Faramarzi.

Faramarzi has been a faculty member at WesternU’s CVM since 2009. He specializes in, and conducts research related to, equine biomechanics, equine podiatry, and orthopedics.