Sunday, November 23, 2014
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Modern Horse Care

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Modern Horse Care


For thousands of years people have called upon the power of the horse.  They are majestic, awe inspiring, and athletic animals.  But, at the same time, they are surprisingly delicate creatures that need special care.  So, how has veterinary medicine for our horses changed in this modern world?

By:  Dr. Jim Humphries, Veterinary News Network


Historically, horses have been partners to their human owners, providing important services in ranching, farming and transportation.  Today while horses are still valued for work like this or prized for their athletic prowess, most simply lead lives as cherished companions.

Even as our horses’ job descriptions have changed, modern veterinary medicine has adapted to provide a higher level of care for our horses and the people who love them.  Modern equine services exist today in a variety of specialized modes.

Student DVM with foalGetting your horse to the veterinarian is not necessarily an easy task, so equine veterinarians are often seen doing farm calls and going directly to the patients.  Using sophisticated mobile hospitals, equine practitioners can diagnose and treat many common injuries and illnesses right on the farm.  This invaluable resource helps horses recover more quickly, because they are in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

Sometimes, though, it is important to hospitalize a horse and offer more intensive care.  State of the art equine hospitals function as isolation wards to protect against the spread of serious diseases, like equine flu and also as a facility to closely monitor the patients 24 hours a day. 

In house laboratories can provide veterinarians and owners with quick results from complete blood counts and/or chemistry panels.  This rapid turn-around can often lead to more informed treatment decisions and a better outcome for the patients.  And, just like our small animal companions, many different types of parasites can infect horses.  Equine hospitals, as well as their mobile services, will have resources for both the identification and treatment of intestinal worms, ticks and other pests.

In spite of their size and power, horses often develop problems with their legs and gait.  Veterinarians who work with horses understand their unique anatomy and the many different potential causes of limping or injured limbs.  Diagnostic tests for lameness are crucial and most often involve radiographs or more sophisticated technology.  Today, many veterinarians are using digital x-rays which allow them to get extremely high quality images ensuring proper diagnosis. 

Many horse lovers need to understand how important dental work is for their companions. Horses’ teeth are very long and grow continually.   A variety of diseases and problems can develop from an unattended mouth.  It is important to only use a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine for your equine dentistry.  Far too many people and horses have been injured by non-licensed, non-veterinarians trying to perform this critical service.

Dr. Bob Judd, a noted equine practitioner in Texas says “Using a licensed veterinarian may seem obvious to some, but the recent trend of non-veterinarians performing various forms of medical care has veterinarians concerned.”

Dr. Judd continues by stating, “This is not only illegal, but dangerous for both the horse and the horse owner.  Many horses must be sedated to perform thorough equine dentistry and other routine procedures and non-veterinarians are not trained or licensed in the use of these powerful drugs.”   

Like their small animal counterparts, equine hospitals must also have a fully stocked and functioning surgery suite.  But, in the case of horses, the equipment tends to be much larger as the patients can weigh up to two thousand pounds!  Many equine surgeons continue their education to become board-certified.

Horse examinationOther modern equine medicine includes reproductive services, such as breeding, genetics and delivering healthy foals and even high tech services like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) or bone scanning devices.  Services for geriatric horses have also increased as increasing levels of care are leading to longer lives for these magnificent animals.

Today’s modern equine doctor is a highly skilled veterinarian who is devoted to the unique needs of both you and your horse.  Many are board certified specialists.  This commitment requires special equipment, formalized training and years of experience.  For the best care for your horse, make sure you are working with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who focuses on equine practice.