View Full Version : Phar Lap

SuperE (Guest)
20-07-01, 03:53 AM
I was going to post this in the "Injectable for Hair Loss" thread but it was too long.

So for the benefit of those who'd like some information on the latest theory about Phar Lap's death read on...

Here is a report by Dr John Van Veenendaal, a specialist equine surgeon, written in 2000 based on research findings and the autopsy reports at the time of Phar Lap's death in 1932:

"............. From the history and graphic descriptions Tommy related to me, I had formed the opinion that Phar Lap had died of an acute enteric disease, either 'Anterior Enteritis' of 'Colitis X'.

From the reports and post mortem findings you have provided to me, there are several points which can be made:

1. The post mortem lesions were confined mainly to the upper intestinal tract, with little colonic involvement, therefor ruling out Colitis X as a possibility.
2. The gastric ulceration that is featured in these reports is probably an incidental finding. Gastric ulceration in racing throughbreds is a very common condidtion and reflects the high grain, concentrated diets that they are fed.
3. The arsenicals found in the vital organs would not have been an unusual finding. In those times, many thoroughbreds were given tonics containing arsenicals, notably 'Fowlers Solution'.
4. Phar Lap did die of poisoning but not a poison that was given maliciously or intentionally. The poison was an enterotoxin that caused Anterior Enteritis or more correctly Duodenitis-Proximal jejunitis. The clincal features that Tommy described to me and the reports that you have supplied me with indicate that this was the most probable cause of death.

In my experience as a racetrack practioner and a referral surgeon I have seen numerous cases of Duodenitis-Proximal jejunitis. The consistent findings are fever, acute admoninal pain with rapid deterioration to depression and, without intensive supportive therapy, death from enterotoxic shock, severe dehydration and respiratory compromisation from acute distention of the stomach and upper small intestines. Physical obstructions or strangulations of the small intesting usually do not deteriorate as rapidly nor do they have a fever. The salient words in the William Nielsen's report on the post mortem examination are: "The signs present were those of acute gastric enteritis brought about, in my opinion by some toxic substance, the toxic substance causing same I am unable to say."

The disease syndrome, now known as Duodenitis-Proximal jejunitis was not described in the literature until the early 1980s. Nielsen would not have been aware of this disease but his summation of the cause of death was correct."1

Dr William M Nielsen was Phar Lap's travelling vet and conducted the initial post-mortem examination and autopsy inconjunction with Dr Caesar Masoero (Tanforan racecourse vet).

"Phar Lap" is a wonderful book - I dare you to read the prologue and not shed a tear! :'(

1. Armstrong, G. & Thompson,P. 2000. Phar Lap. p. 164-165. Allen & Unwin, Sydney.