Continuing Education for Veterinarians and Horse Owners

Continuing education is a euphemism for most of life. We learn as we live. But if life is continuing education, then medical science is the fast track. For equine veterinarians, much of our professional continuing education takes place at the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) annual convention, which is highlighted in a supplement that accompanies this issue of The Horse. Continuing education meetings impart knowledge, usually from speakers to participants. For scientists, knowledge is valuable for knowledge's sake. For the clinician and horse owner, knowledge is valuable for application's sake.

Most knowledge is not directly applicable clinically, but when grains of knowledge get coated with understanding the way an oyster forms a pearl, progress against injury and disease occurs. It is these pearls of knowledge and understanding that one goes to continuing education meetings to acquire.

The AAEP presents information at its annual convention not only for veterinarians, but also for horse owners. Horseman's Day at the meeting is meant to provide an opportunity for horse owners to come and examine the best information of the past year. So why do horse owners need continuing education? In a perfect world, no veterinary calls would be made when unneeded, and no veterinary calls would be delayed when diagnosis and treatment is called for. Informed owners improve the probability that veterinary time will be used effectively and is cost-effective for owners. The help you need most often from your veterinarian is to identify the cause of your horse's problem. Every horse owner has a background of personal experience that leads to a suspected diagnosis, but hopefully the value of the trained veterinarian will be obvious when the medical facts of a disease need to be assessed and a proper diagnosis and treatment plan laid out.

Continuing education for horse owners is most important because of the familiarity it provides with various health topics. Be careful, however; it can be harmful to make the diagnosis for yourself. If the diagnosis is incorrect, all treatment is futile. Once you have the correct diagnosis, then exploration for pathophysiology, treatment options, and even costs of treatment is useful. Most busy veterinarians don't have time to fully discuss the
pathophysiology of every problem with each client each day. So background information from the Internet, meetings, or publications is useful for the veterinarian as well as the owner or trainer.

In the modern-day horse owner's search for information, books, friends, and certainly the Internet are the most popular sources. But you must know the source and assure that you are tapping credible information. In a recent survey by the human orthopedic publication The Joint Letter, a series of common orthopedic questions were posed, then the Internet was searched for information pertaining to those problems. A panel of experts evaluated the recommendations. Sixty percent of the information gleaned was either useless or harmful in its application to the disease in question. In many instances, the recommendations were not understandable as to how to or when to apply.

You must be sure that you know the source of information and do not partake of the 60% of recommendations that are harmful or useless. The AAEP maintains the web site www.myHorseMatters. com to assure credible answers for equine-related topics. Retrospective evaluation of publications by means of searchable databases is also a useful resource if one carefully assesses the source of the information used by the journal. And continuing education meetings can broaden your understanding of the entire picture as it pertains to your horse's health.

So have the heart to get your horse a proper diagnosis and have the good sense to avail yourself of the available options for understanding your treatment. But when treatment is embarked upon, reason should prevail. Reason with no heart leaves one blind, but heart with no reason may leave one lame.

About the Author

Larry Bramlage, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS

Larry Bramlage, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, practices at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky.

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