A year-round guide to what's available for assisting veterinary professionals--from novel gadgets to emerging therapies.

Whether he's in the clinic or on the road, your vet tends to everyone's needs but his own. Good thing there are groups working to make his life easier. Here's a month-by-month look at conveniences for veterinary professionals.

January and February

Breeding season always seems to promise newly available gadgets and tests to help owners and veterinarians. Such products include halter foaling monitors that page or telephone you when the mare is in the foaling position, and urinary pregnancy tests to be used from 110 to 300 days after mating. These tests are particularly useful for smaller mares and Minis in whom rectal evaluation of pregnancy is difficult or impossible.


The annual American Association of Equine Practitioners' (AAEP) Convention, held Dec. 6-10, 2008, in San Diego, Calif., of-fered up-to-date information and continuing education opportunities for veterinarians and technicians managing athletic horses (e.g., lameness, muscular disorders, respiratory diseases, cardiac abnormalities), surgical techniques for general practi-tioners, providing emergency care at athletic events, reproduction, and infectious diseases, to name only a few.

Proceedings are available from the AAEP and comprehensive coverage of the meeting will be available on TheHorse.com and in print in the AAEP Convention Wrap-Up, a supplement to March edition of The Horse magazine.


By this month, New Yorkers and Long Islanders are likely reaping the rewards of a new referral veterinary center. The Ruffian Equine Medical Center (REMC) is co-owned by James C. Hunt Jr., DVM, a private practitioner at Belmont Park in New York.

"We saw a need for a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art hospital at Belmont Park with all the bells and whistles," relays Hunt. "New York is playing catch up to the West Coast and (we) used the hospitals at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park as models when designing the REMC."


Have your and your veterinarian designed and initiated the spring component of your joint health program? Maintaining and maximizing joint health is essential, particularly for horses with athletic prowess. Healthy joints can benefit from treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), intra-articular corticosteroids, oral joint health supplements (OJHSs), other dietary modifications (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids), and weight management.


The promise of summer and the rapidly increasing insect populations in the northern U.S. draw our attention to the number of infectious diseases that are spread by these pests, such as West Nile virus. Just like West Nile virus spread rapidly throughout North America, other viruses have the potential to do the same. African horsesickness, which is transmitted via the biting midge ("Culicoides" spp, also known as no-see-ums), remains foreign to North America, but it has become an emerging disease of global significance.

According to Debra Sellon, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of equine medicine at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, "Culicoides" spp are already present in North America, and humans and horses travel extensively internationally. "Why wouldn't we be at risk for African horsesickness?" asks Sellon.

Vaccines and tests for detecting the African horsesickness virus are being developed.

July, August, and September

The height of summer is when many horses are at the peak of their athleticism, be it competitive or recreational. As with any athlete, injuries can occur--despite taking all possible precautions--and a therapy unit such as the Game Ready Equine system might expedite healing. This accelerated recovery system uses NASA-patented spacesuit technology to provide active compression in combination with dry cold therapy.


Do you know horses that have unruly attitudes or stable vices? While an association with Halloween and the increased prevalence of odd equine behavior has yet to be established, it certainly is an appropriate month to consider how damaging and potentially dangerous vices can be. 

Equine remote trainers are available that manufacturers say are humane and effective in addressing undesirable behavior. The trainers work by remotely delivering an electrical stimulation via a collar sported by the offender. 

You can also use electronic devices designed for placement on limbs to deter animals from chewing, biting, or licking bandages or stable wraps.

According to Camie Heleski, PhD, and PhD student Carissa Wickens from Michigan State University, "Vice breaker collars might work in a select group of horses, but would require an extremely diligent observer to be certain that consistent and contingent punishments were administered via the collar."

Heleski and Wickens point out that the best approach to modifying or reducing unwanted behavior is adjusting management protocols to take into account "natural" horse behavior. This removes some of the risk factors or underlying causes of stereotypic behaviors (e.g., frequent or extended stall confinement, high concentrate/low forage diets, or limited social contact).


Consider November "nip/tuck" month. Veterinarians can effectively treat problematic or unattractive skin tumors, such as sarcoids, melanomas, and squamous cell carcinomas, with either radiation therapy or electrochemotherapy.  

Radiation therapy is currently available at six American veterinary facilities. While tumors on the extremities or head tend to be the easiest to remove, tumors on any body part that can fit under the radiation beam can be treated.

Electrochemotherapy, developed by the research group of Youssef Tamzali, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, from the Ecole Veterinaire de Toulouse in France, involves applying electrical pulses in combination with chemotherapy to safely and effectively treat sarcoids.

Electrochemotherapy is not currently available in North America; however, according to Tamzali, "If some veterinary facilities or large private clinics start using it, we expect a quick takeoff of the technique in the U.S."


With the potential for some extra time in the off-season (for those residing in the more Northern climates), this is an excellent chance for veterinarians to explore the newest technology available for wireless Internet devices, in-the-truck computers, GPS (global positioning systems), and BlackBerry or Palm devices and other smart phones. Maximizing time and minimizing the number of wrong turns will save time, resources, and money, and it will relieve undue stress.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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