The annual convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association, held July 13-17, drew practitioners from around the world. One topic of particular timeliness was the growing use of extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) for various lameness and back problems, and was presented by Rick Mitchell, DVM, of Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, Conn. California and New York have new regulations limiting the use of ESWT in racehorses, and Mitchell discussed ESWT for providing short-term relief of acute foot soreness in show jumpers. This technique has proven successful in practice on jumpers, although he concedes that the jury is still out on the long-term benefits of ESWT.

Mitchell and his colleagues have also added acupressure and acupuncture to their lameness diagnostic and treatment methods, particularly in cases of chronic, intermittent lameness and for lameness that defies diagnosis by conventional methods. Mitchell is certified in these techniques, which is critical for any veterinarian offering these services.

Ahmed Tibary, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, assistant professor of theriogenology at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, reminded practitioners and breeders that individual stallions vary significantly in their semen characteristics. Therefore, it is worth the time and expense to try multiple methods (semen extenders, straw types, cooling/thawing procedures) to custom-fit a semen freezing/ storage protocol for an individual stallion.

Roberta Dwyer, DVM, Dipl. ACVPM, associate professor at the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, discussed their work to solve the lingering mysteries of mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS), which killed more than 3,500 foals in central Kentucky in the spring of 2001 and continued in 2002. The evidence collected since the outbreak supports the theory that a massive infestation of Eastern tent caterpillars was responsible for the early- and late-term abortions. What is still uncertain is what exactly in the caterpillars caused the foal losses. This year, strict caterpillar control on breeding farms was being credited with a significant reduction of foal losses.

Sally Vivrette, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, from Triangle Equine Mobile Veterinary Services in Cary, N.C., spoke on handling common emergencies such as severe traumatic blood loss, ingestion of toxic items such as red maple leaves or rodent poisons, and rupture of the uterine artery in older, pregnant mares. While it's not common practice, Vivrette said that having a horse's blood typed and cross-matched ahead of time greatly increases the safety and ease of a blood transfusion in an emergency.

Respiratory emergencies were also discussed, including acute attacks of allergic upper airway disease. Vivrette recommends preventive measures such as storing hay in a separate building from the barn and shunning dust-scattering leafblowers in favor of old-fashioned brooms for cleaning walkways.

Emergencies in newborn foals were hot topics, especially blood infection or septicemia. Vivrette teaches her clients the "1, 2, 3s" of foaling--the foal should stand by one hour after birth, nurse by two hours, and the mare should deliver the placenta by three hours. Equally important, she stressed, was that lethargy in a newborn foal is an emergency that requires immediate attention, since a foal can become septic (afflicted with a systemic infection) and die within several hours.

About the Author

Susan Piscopo, DVM, PhD

Susan Piscopo, DVM, PhD, is a free-lance writer in the biomedical sciences. She practiced veterinary medicine in North Carolina before accepting a fellowship to pursue a PhD in physiology at North Carolina State University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

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