Wednesday, January 19, 2011

IRAP Equine Lameness Therapy: Two Veterinarians, Two Videos to Show and Tell the Treatment's Story

Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein therapy (IRAP™) for equine lameness came on the scene a few years ago and seemed to be the province of university and referral hospitals. It was first discussed on this blog back in May of 2007, in New Lameness Treatments: IRAP™ Therapy.

Fast forward to 2011 and IRAP has become a word you'll overhear trainers using at the racetrack, and dressage riders quipping about as they compare notes on their horses' injuries. IRAP may not be an overnight sensation, but it would be close to the equivalent and if you haven't had first-hand experience with a case yet, just hang on--you will. Or, you may even be around horses that have undergone IRAP therapy and you didn't even know it: there are no scars, no bandages, no clipped hair.

But horse owners still call here and ask for advice: what is it? what can go wrong? who's had it done? It's true; some owners can't quite catch the name or the concept, and think of IRAP as just a very expensive joint injection. But they are usually pretty happy with the results.

IRAP isn't a treatment with a lot of drama or big equipment or flashing lights. It is simply a treatment of a sample of the horse's own blood, creating an enriched serum which contains anti-inflammatory proteins. These proteins are very specifically targeted to block the harmful effects of interleukin-1, an inflammatory mediator that accelerates the destruction of cartilage.

Will IRAP help every horse? Will it reverse the degenerative effects of years of arthritis? As the numbers of treatments increase, veterinarians are becoming more specific about ideal cases and potential benefits.

For the horse, the treatment consists of just two injections: first the drawing of a vial of blood, then the enriched serum is injected back into the horse at the site of the injury. Because the serum is autologous, or derived from the horse’s own blood, there is only a minimal risk of an adverse reaction.

When I went looking for a video about IRAP, I thought I would share two instead of one, because together they tell a good deal about IRAP. The two videos are similar, but show a lot of details about the process. Dr. McKee of McKee Pownall Equine Services has a Standardbred racehorse on hand as a patient, while Dr. Charlene Cook of Central Georgia Equine Services has a pleasure horse on the cross ties.

This may seem like too much information...until the day comes when you need to know about IRAP. 

Melissa McKee DVM of McKee Pownall Equine Services in Ontario, Canada leads the horse world through the demystification of many horse diseases and problems through her practice's YouTube channel. In this video, Dr McKee's straightforward explanation of IRAP should put horseowners at ease when their vets recommend the treatment. Thanks to McKee Pownall for their ongoing excellence in client education. Via YouTube and Facebook, they are educating many more of us than just their clients!

If you or one of your clients would like to read more about IRAP on paper, we have a link to an excellent document download, IRAP Therapy for Equine Osteoarthritis, created by Amanda House DVM of the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine's Extension Service.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to
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