University of Melbourne Vet Hospital Expands Equine Facility

A new track designed specifically for detecting lameness in horses and five refurbished boxes for treating foals have been opened at the University of Melbourne's Veterinary Clinic and Hospital based in Werribee, Australia.

Equine staff at the hospital now also have access to a mechanical ventilator for animals in need of respiratory support.

These new additions mean the Equine Centre can offer support to clients--from stud farms to individual horse owners--that is unparalleled in Victoria.

As lameness is one of the hardest diagnoses to make with horses, the new trot-up track is a vital facility for the hospital.

The hard track and adjacent soft sand track will complement the soft surface inside the arena, where animals can be ridden or longed to ensure that Chris Whitton, BVSc, PhD, FACVSc, MRCVS, and his staff have the best chance of identifying the cause of horses' problems.

Foal in new boxes at Univeristy of Melbourne

The new foal facility at the University of Melbourne's Veterinary Clinic and Hospital.

"I like to be able to see a horse trot away and towards me in a straight line on a hard and soft surface as well as longeing in a circle in both directions, and now we are able to do this," Whitton said.

The new tracks allow detailed assessment of horses at a variety of gaits on different surfaces and are designed to be used in conjunction with the hospital's high speed gait analysis system, which utilizes high-speed cameras and motion analysis software.

"We see a lot of lame horses here because of the quality of the equipment we have and our expertise and experience, but investigating the causes of it is one of the hardest challenges for any veterinarian," he said. "Often they are very subtle and complex and, in performance horses especially, there can be multiple niggling injuries that take several days to identify.

"This now gives us a dedicated area to carry out this process thoroughly."

The new foal facility has been installed over the past 12 months and includes mare and foal stalls in which foals can receive intensive care on supportive mats with intravenous fluids administered via infusion pumps, and ventilators, while the mare is still able to maintain contact with her foal.

Facilities for mechanical ventilation of foals in need of respiratory support are also available. The refurbished foal boxes also allow staff to maintain animals in isolation if they are suffering from illnesses such as diarrhea.

Laura Fennell, an equine medicine resident, said: "We now have the latest equipment, which means the standard of care is even higher. With the mechanical ventilator in particular we can treat animals that in the past we might have had to put down."

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