Enteritis: Getting To The Guts

Ninety practitioners and members of the equine health community gathered at the Piedra Foundation's eighth annual Dan Evans Memorial Equine Conference in Del Mar, Calif., to discuss new solutions to the age-old problem of gastrointestinal disorders, specifically enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine). Doug Byars, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Hagyard, Davidson, McGee veterinary hospital in Lexington, Ky., and Chrysann Collatos, VMD, of High Desert Veterinary Service in Reno, Nev., were the featured speakers. David Ramey, DVM, of Glendale, Calif., gave additional presentations on the complexities of complementary and alternative medicine.

Byars and Collatos covered diagnostic techniques and treatments for enteritis. Byars discussed causes and symptoms, and touched on promising ways to diagnose and determine whether the treatment should include surgery. He explained the occurrence of diarrhea in horses--especially in foals--and he outlined medications that help solve the problem in some cases. He reminded practitioners and lay owners that antibiotics can make the problem worse.

"Ultrasound of the abdomen," said Byars, "has dramatically improved our ability to tell whether to go to surgery or not. Look what a tremendous tool is at our fingertips," he said as he showed videotapes of diagnostic ultrasound. (Byars also gave practitioners a chance to hone their skills on spotting abnormalities such as masses on heart valves, carditis, and kidney stones, via ultrasound.) He also presented information relative to gastric ulcers and assessment of high-risk pregnancies relative to ultrasound examination.

Collatos discussed fluid therapy in a non-hospital situation. She said that practitioners should refer the patient to a hospital if the prognosis for the horse is not good, or if additional therapies are needed beyond what the practitioner has in his/her vehicle. Collatos stressed that if a practitioner can't give the horse fluids fast enough, then the horse is better off traveling to an equine hospital set up for critical care.

She gave a series of case studies in which aggressive parenteral fluid therapy was, and was not, successful, and gave tips on when volume replacement is risky, such as in foals.

Sessions on alternative medicine were interspersed throughout the program. "There is not really such thing as alternative and complementary medicine," said Ramey. "There is really only medicine--that which is effective and that which is not effective." Ramey reviewed the social, cultural, and psychological reasons behind belief in complementary modalities, and discussed the risks that might result in using those methods. He specifically delved into the topic of acupuncture and its historical accuracies and fallacies.

The conference was sponsored by Merial, Fort Dodge Animal Health, Intervet, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, Ice Horse, Grand Meadows Equine Nutritional Products, Heska, Western Medical Supply Co., ProVet, Thoro'Bred Racing Plate Co., United Endoscopy, and the Dolly Green Foundation. Byars specifically was sponsored by Merial.

"I think Dan Evans would be very pleased to see how this conference has grown to become an important forum where veterinarians, owners, and trainers can take part in the sharing of contemporary equine health care issues," said Jay Rose, DVM, head of the Piedra Foundation, of his late veterinarian friend for whom the conference is named. "The increased level of understanding and communication between horse care professionals and equine caretakers is directly translated into improved care for the horse as a result of these interactive programs."

Audio tapes of the conference are available at www.piedra.org.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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