Success Story: Freeman

In January 2016, the Pine Hollow team noticed something seemed off just before driving out of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) with their horses. Stopping to check the horses before continuing off the showgrounds, Pine Hollow discovered Freeman, a promising and successful Dutch Warmblood, had swung his hind leg over the back of the trailer. Freeman’s stifle had ended up squarely on one of the hooks used to secure the back door, lodging the hook into his stifle and into the femoropatellar joint.

Recognizing the extreme peril facing Freeman, Pine Hollow immediately called for help from Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC), the official veterinarians of WEF.

“It took tremendous effort, creative thinking, and exceptional teamwork to free Freeman from the hook impaling his leg,” said David Blake, Pine Hollow’s internationally acclaimed rider and trainer. “PBEC sent several of their top vets to help us rescue Freeman. The team of vets is truly great.”

Thanks in very large part to the help and determination of the vets, Pine Hollow and PBEC were able to free Freeman from the trailer door.

From there, Freeman was transported to the nearby Palm Beach Equine Clinic, where he spent a few days trying to recover before it was agreed to pursue arthroscopic surgery on his femoropatellar joint.

“To be honest, it wasn’t looking good at all for the first day or so Freeman was there,” said Blake. “The joint was so severely damaged we didn’t know if it could be fixed. Our only chance of fixing the joint was surgery, so we agreed we would try everything possible.”

Dr. Weston Davis performed the surgery, after which Freeman remained in PBEC’s care while he regained use of the leg.

“The team did a fantastic job there and kept Freeman until he was ready to begin long-term rehab with James Keogh,” said Blake.

When Freeman was finally ready to return home to Pine Hollow, Blake hoped at best Freeman would eventually be able to do light work and perform at a low level.

12/07/2017 ; Tryon NC ; Tryon Summer VII ; 50, FREEMAN, DAVID BLAKE ; 1m40 ; Sportfot

Freeman, however, continued to defy all the odds. Following the successful arthroscopic surgery and a very gradual return to work, Freeman is not only doing ‘little stuff,’ but has returned to jumping at the 1.40m level. On Saturday, August 27, at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, he jumped his first grand prix since the injury.

“He definitely defied all odds and expectations and came back to his level!” said Blake. “Regina Daniels, who works for me, did all the rehab riding with him, and she did a great job. She took him from walking and hand-walking, right back up to jumping little jumps. Regina spent a long time doing it, about a year, which I think was the key. When Freeman came back to me, we continued to build him up slowly back to the level he was at before.”

Throughout his recovery and gradual return to work, Freeman was carefully and routinely monitored by the Palm Beach Equine team including Dr. Weston Davis and Dr. Richard Wheeler. The vets evaluated Freeman every couple of months and took periodic x-rays to assess if, or by how much, he was improving and what might be the appropriate level of work at the time for the gelding.

“It was important to make sure that we weren’t pushing anything too soon,” explained Blake. “What was really incredible to see develop and return over time was his muscle. After the injury, the muscle of his whole left side was like looking at a different horse from his right side. Now you look at him or stand behind him, and you wouldn’t even pick a side.

“I think he wanted to come back, because his recovery has truly been remarkable,” concluded Blake. “Touch wood, it’s been a pretty quiet injury. I think the horse knows he was lucky. I can feel it. Funny, when he came back he was almost a different horse in his personality a little bit. I can feel that he’s appreciative to be home, and he knows he’s lucky. He’s really trying to do everything that he can now to be good. I think he’s found a new respect for life.”


Hurricane Irma Animal Travel Regulations

Palm Beach Equine Clinic would like to give you the latest update on horse and livestock transportation requirements for evacuation of expected impacted areas by Hurricane Irma. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Animal Industry, has temporarily suspended the intrastate movement requirements for the transportation of animals from these areas. Please click the link below to read the full details.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services


Healthcare Reminder: Equine Dentistry is More Than Just Floating

According to a study conducted by North Carolina State University, approximately 40% of horses have significant dental problems. What’s the answer to many of those problems? Dr. Tyler Davis of Palm Beach Equine Clinic states that routine and thorough dental exams may prevent many issues from ever becoming problems.

On a basic level, dentistry in horses is important because the mouth is the first part of the horse that is taking in and processing food. Horses must grind their food into a finely masticated bolus before swallowing. The combination of a horse’s upper jaw being larger than the lower and the fact that a horse chews by moving the jaw from side to side results in uneven wear of the teeth. This uneven wear may cause sharp edges, which hinder efficient chewing and may ulcerate or lacerate the cheeks and tongue thus causing incomplete mastication, sometimes leading to problems like colic.

What is floating?
Floating is the term for rasping or filing a horse’s teeth to ensure an even, properly aligned bite plane. While floating is the physical process, the scope of equine dentistry is much broader and examines the horse’s overall health as influenced by the mouth.

“You can get a rasp and without even looking in the horse’s mouth float the points off, and you may be getting the vast majority of the work done,” said Dr. Davis. “But, a really good dental exam with a speculum, a very good light source, and a dental mirror allows you to see possible problems and prevent those problems from becoming painful and affecting your horse’s overall health.”

The most common signs of dental discomfort in horses include:

  • head-tilting and tossing
  • difficulty chewing
  • bit-chewing and tongue lolling
  • tail-wringing and bucking
  • drooling and bad breath
  • (sometimes) weight loss and spillage of grain

The above symptoms require the attention of an equine dentist, but prevention is key to avoiding these signs altogether. The general goals of equine dentistry include improving the chewing of food by helping to maintain even tooth wear, relieving pain, treating or curing infection and disease, and promoting general health, productivity, and longevity.

The most common dental problems in horses are:

  • Malocclusions: Periodontal pockets caused by gum disease making a pocket around the tooth. Food gets caught in these pockets and causes even more decay. The disease progresses as the horse is unable to chew properly. It can lead to infection, abscesses in the mouth, and tooth loss.
  • Fractured tooth from weakness or caused by a foreign object picked up by while eating. These most commonly cause lacerations to the gums and tongue.
  • Tooth root infections that can cause a tooth to die.
  • Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis in geriatric horses: The buildup of a calcified area around the root of a horse’s incisor and canine teeth. When identified, radiographs can be performed to assess damage below the surface of the mouth.

For sport horses, dental care becomes even more important. Much of the connection between horse and rider comes by way of the horse’s mouth. If there are problems or discomfort within the mouth, it will be evident in the horse’s performance and disposition under tack. According to Dr. Davis, having a horse’s mouth perfect allows one to immediately rule out dental issues when trying to troubleshoot a performance problem.

How often should you have a veterinarian perform a routine dental exam on your horse? Dr. Davis recommends every 12 months at the very minimum. In many sport horses, the fact that they are working at such a high level may require bi-yearly exams to prevent any problems that could sideline them from training or competition. Lastly, horses with known dental problems may require exams every three to four months.

Contact your veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic for more information on equine dentistry, or to schedule a dental exam, at 561-793-1599.



Meet PBEC Veterinary Technician Morgan Cooley

Originally hailing from Plymouth, MA, Morgan Cooley graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2013 before beginning to manage a competitive show barn. Then, when an opportunity with Palm Beach Equine Clinic presented itself in early 2016, Cooley made the move to Florida to pursue a career as a veterinary technician. Since then, she’s made herself a valuable asset to the PBEC team, working alongside Dr. Jorge Gomez.

What is your background with horses?

I’ve been riding horses for as long as I can remember, and there are pictures of me riding from before I can remember! I grew up on my great-grandmother’s farm, called Little Forge, in Plymouth, MA. My favorite memories are taking the horses swimming in the pond and racing bareback around the hay fields. I owe my horsemanship skills to my time at Little Forge. I rode and competed in Pony Club during middle school and high school in all of the disciplines with borrowed ponies and my off-the-track Thoroughbred. In college, I rode competitively on the equestrian team at Mount Holyoke College.

What led you to Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) and a career as a veterinary technician?

My first job out of college was as a manager for an A-circuit show stable. We were based out of Massachusetts and wintered in Wellington, FL. Dr. Brusie was our veterinarian, so I got to know him and his technician Sarah very well. After season, I pursued an internship in animal health sales, and when my internship ended I was on the job hunt.

The following winter, just before the start of season, Dr. Brusie happened to ask a friend of mine at the barn how I was, and she mentioned I was looking for employment. Dr. Brusie knew PBEC had a position open. I applied, and three days later, I was driving from Massachusetts to Florida!

Ironically, I wasn’t necessarily looking for a vet tech position. Dr. Gomez needed a technician and Dr. Brusie happened to ask about me at the right time. Funny how life happens. With my passion for horses and my organizational skills, they thought I would be a good fit. That was a year and a half ago!

What is your typical day like at PBEC?

I usually refer to myself as Dr. Gomez’s “right hand (wo)man.” I organize our daily schedule and am in constant contact with our clients. I keep our truck fully stocked and operational. Dr. Gomez specializes in Sport Horse Medicine and Lameness, so we do many lameness evaluations and pre-purchase exams. I assist by jogging/lunging horses, preparing joints for injections, formalizing the pre-purchase reports, and documenting all the work done throughout the day. Dr. Gomez has three associates that work for him, so I organize and delegate client scheduling and needs between them as well.

What do you enjoy most about working for PBEC?

I can honestly say I have learned something new and continue to further my veterinary knowledge every day I work with Dr. Gomez. His experience and knowledge of horses never ceases to amaze me. He’s not only a fantastic veterinarian, but also a great horseman. It makes learning from him a pleasure.  And of course, the horses – I genuinely love working with them each day. It’s really rewarding to work on a horse and then watch it compete and be successful in the show ring.

Have you had any standout or favorite moments since you joined the PBEC team?

Dr. Gomez has a client based in Ocala, FL, who he visits regularly. Last summer, I accompanied Dr. Gomez on one of his trips. The farm sent their private plane to pick us up in West Palm Beach, flew us to Ocala, and then flew us back to Wellington at the end of the day. I will always remember commuting to work on a private plane!

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I tend to be a bit of a health nut. I enjoy staying active, cooking, and baking. I like to be outdoors as much as possible whether that be going for a hike or enjoying the Florida beaches. I enjoy attending concerts and staying up-to-date on all my New England sports teams. I try to find time to ride, though it’s not nearly as much as I would like!

Success Story: Amazing Grace

On the morning of December 30, 2015, Laurie Waggoner, director of rescue operations and founder of the South Florida SPCA, got a call that she gets all too often. Agriculture patrol had received reports of three emaciated horses in Miami Gardens, FL, that needed immediate care. Waggoner took action and hooked up her truck and trailer to make the drive to pick up the three horses.

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

When she arrived, she found an Arabian and a Quarter Horse, both severely underweight, and a pony she estimated to be two years old laying in the mud, too weak and malnourished to even stand. The pony, who was quickly named Amazing Grace or “Grace” had been down for more than 24 hours. Despite Waggoner’s best efforts, her team was unable to get Grace on her feet and decided the most humane option was to end Grace’s suffering. Calls went out to local veterinarians, but were met with a slow response the day before New Year’s Eve.

While they waited for a veterinarian to become available, Waggoner and her team rolled Grace onto a blanket and carried her onto a trailer to make the trip back to the South Florida SPCA.

“When we pulled her off the trailer, she immediately started grazing,” said Waggoner. “The vet was on the way to euthanize her, but I saw that there was fight still left in her. We were able to pick her up and she stood with help. She was not ready to go.”

Grace was made comfortable in a stall at the South Florida SPCA and stood with assistance over the next day. But, on the second day, she was no longer willing or able to make an effort to stand.

“I knew we were going to need help, but it was a holiday and locally everything was closed,” said Waggoner. “I called Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) and they told me to bring her right in.”

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

Grace arrived at PBEC on New Year’s Day and was greeted by a team of veterinarians led by Dr. Scott Swerdlin, president of PBEC. She was treated for extreme starvation and neglect, which included constant blood work to monitor organ function, the administration of fluids, several meals of senior feed and alfalfa each day, and a lot of compassion from PBEC veterinarians.

“She spent eight days at PBEC and returned to the South Florida SPCA ranch with the same will to live,” said Waggoner. “Five days later, I came out in the morning and she was standing on her own.”

Grace was completely rehabbed in four months and put up for adoption at the end of 2016. On December 31, 2016, one year after she was found on the brink of death, Grace made her way across the U.S.-Canadian border to her new home at Sherwood Farm in St. Catharines, Ontario, with adopter Marilyn Lee.

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

“I knew she would need special handling to give her the chance to succeed, which we were fully prepared to do,” said Lee, who also adopted a Thoroughbred from the South Florida SPCA in 2012. “I saw her current photo on South Florida SPCA’s Facebook page and thought, ‘Now there is a lovely pony’. Then I saw the photo of her laying in the dirt, and that was that.”

One of Lee’s young riders, Abby Banis, had also learned of Grace’s story on social media and was waiting for the pony in the early morning hours the day she arrived at Sherwood Farm. The two have been inseparable ever since.

Grace’s training began immediately under the direction of Lee’s daughter, Robin Hannah-Carlton. Impressed by the pony’s love for jumping, Lee made plans to start showing Grace, who won a reserve championship in the pony hunter division at the very first show she competed at with Banis in the irons.

Photos courtesy of South Florida SPCA

Today, Grace is happy and healthy with the care of Lee and her staff, and the love of a little girl. The South Florida SPCA operates under the motto, “Your next champion just might be a rescue”, and for Grace, nothing could be closer to the truth.

Meet PBEC Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

This month, Palm Beach Equine Clinic welcomed a new face to their team. Dr. Katie Atwood, 30, hails from Jacksonville, FL, and attended vet school at the University of Florida, making her return to south Florida from Lexington, KY, a special homecoming.

What brought you to PBEC?

I grew up in Florida, so I wanted to be closer to family and the ocean! But, I was also looking for an opportunity to grow and become a better veterinarian. This is a difficult industry to get into, but it is especially difficult to find the right practices. This is a chance for me to work with some of the best doctors in the country.

What would you say is your specialty at PBEC? 

In addition to general medicine, including colic cases, simply dentistry, and new foal exams, I will be focusing on PBEC’s reproductive work. I did an internship and a fellowship in repro and realized that it is what I am most interested in specializing in. I will be working up mares, doing frozen and fresh semen breeding, as well as breeding management and embryo flushes for transfers to recipient mares.

What inspired you to be a veterinarian?

When I was a little kid we had a trail behind our house that was really popular and I would sit on the back wall and watch everybody ride their horses by. We do not have any other veterinarians in the family, but I was five years old when I realized that I wanted to work with animals. Then, during my undergraduate studies in Animal Science at Berry College in Rome, GA, a professor named Dr. Martin Goldberg really pushed me to pursue vet school. I wake up every morning so excited to go to work and if I don’t come home exhausted and filthy then I have done something wrong. It is an “every minute of every day” commitment, but very rewarding.

When you aren’t working, where can we find you?

I like to spend as much time as possible in the water. I can usually be found swimming or paddle boarding at the beach and spending time by the pool

What advice would you give to someone considering vet school?

Do it! It will be the most difficult time in your life, but if you have a passion for it, it is so rewarding. Dedication is so important; take advantage of every wet lab you can, go to any conference that is available, and take advantage of opportunities to meet new people and gain mentors. The best practices are going to take the best people and if you’re the best at what you do, you will be fine. Who wouldn’t want to do what they love for a living?

Name one thing most people wouldn’t know about you? 

I am a pretty open book at this point. But, when I retire, my fiancé Mackenzie and I want to sail around the world!


Shes Packin Fame: Back in Winning Form

Nearly eight months ago, Shes Packin Fame, a 2012 Quarter Horse mare owned by Margo Crowther of Fort Myers, FL, suffered a rare slab fracture to the central tarsal bone in her left hock while competing in a barrel racing competition. After a diagnosis aided by Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s (PBEC) state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging equipment and a surgery performed by PBEC’s own Dr. Weston Davis, Shes Packin Fame has not only returned to running barrels, the five-year-old mare is back to winning.

Crowther purchased Shes Packin Fame, affectionately known as Sissy, as a three-year-old after the mare reminded her of a horse she ran in college. Crowther trained Sissy herself and won or placed in nearly every barrel futurity she entered during the horse’s four-year-old year, accumulating $100,000 in prize money.

In November of 2016, Crowther and Sissy were competing at the No Bull Finals in Asheville, NC, when Sissy went down at the first barrel on the final day. The fall fractured the horse’s central tarsal bone, which was not easily diagnosed. Crowther met with a veterinarian in North Carolina who was unable to locate the fracture via x-ray before contacting Dr. Davis, who had managed Sissy’s healthcare since she joined Crowther’s string.

Dr. Davis utilized PBEC’s Equine Standing MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and Nuclear Scintigraphy camera to locate a flat piece of separated bone known as a slab fracture.

The process began with a Nuclear Scintigraphy scan – a bone scan. Sissy was injected with a radioactive isotope named Technetium 99. The isotope attached to the phosphorous proteins localized within the bone and was absorbed. A specialized nuclear isotope gamma ray camera was used to capture images of the skeletal anatomy with a 360-degree view. Points of interest lit up on the image to indicate increased metabolic activity and was able to locate the site of the injury.

Following the identification of the injured area, a Standing MRI produced highly detailed images in several different planes to capture a compete view of the injury and further define the issue.

After Dr. Davis located and identified the fracture, he surgically inserted a screw into the central tarsal bone to stabilize the fracture. Sissy was discharged from the clinic on six months of recovery with follow-up diagnostic imaging every month to monitor the injury’s repair. During the fourth month of recovery, Dr. Weston removed the screw. At the end of March, Sissy was cleared to begin exercise and Crowther began by hand walking the mare slowly progressing to trotting her under tack. They started with ten minutes of exercise and worked up to 45 minutes.

“Weston was a huge part of Sissy’s recovery,” said Crowther, who set her sights on entering Sissy in the Old Fort Days Derby, held over Memorial Weekend in Fort Smith, AR. “It is the biggest derby of the year for five-year-olds. When it came time to enter, Weston rechecked the leg, did flexion tests, cleared her to run, and wished me good luck.”

When they arrived in Fort Smith, Sissy had not seen a barrel since the day of the injury. Crowther and Sissy posted a time of 16.405 seconds, the fastest time of the event, to win the 25-horse final and collect a $23,469 prize money check.

“She just came back so confident and so strong, like she never missed a beat,” said Crowther. “She always ran like an older horse, but I was surprised at her time. I knew she would be in the top ten, but I was surprised just how strong she was. Weston told me to let her set her own pace and that is what I did. I did not push her. So, when I called Weston to tell him we had won, he was very surprised.

“She feels like her hock is maybe even stronger than it was before the injury,” continued Crowther. “I am so thankful to Weston and Palm Beach Equine Clinic, and feel blessed that she has come back strong and healthy.”

With Sissy back in top form, Crowther’s next goal is a lofty one. Her hope is to qualify for and compete at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV, this December.


Meet PBEC Veterinary Technician Brittany Cain

Originally hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Brittany Cain, 25, attended Southern Illinois University before moving south and joining the staff at Palm Beach Equine Clinic as the manager of the nuclear scintigraphy lab.

What is your background with horses?

Growing up, my parents actually had nothing to do with horses; we’re from the city of Chicago, so they were not horse people at all. I was just always the horse obsessed little girl – you know, the one horse girl in the class! When I was about 13, I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, so I got a lot of hands on experience there. I learned to ride a little bit and worked with the special needs kids. That was great. Once I got a job when I was 18, I started paying for actual riding lessons and just went from there!

I did a lot of work on Standardbred breeding farms up in Illinois. I foaled out a lot of babies and trained a lot of weanlings and a lot of yearlings that are now Standardbred race horses. I did that for three years during college, and that was a really neat experience.

What led you to pursue a career as veterinary technician?

Throughout high school, I was really always obsessed with horses. I volunteered with any of my free time. I knew I wanted to do something that I loved, so I found Southern Illinois University, and they had a bachelor’s degree in equine science. I applied to one school, got in, and it was perfect. I didn’t have to find a bunch of schools; I just went to the one that I wanted right away, and I knew what I wanted to do!

What led to your focus on the nuclear scintigraphy lab in particular?

I’ve always had a strong interest in the anatomy of horses. I knew a lot of the anatomy from college of course. We had a lot of courses that covered the musculature anatomy as well as skeletal. In addition, working with all of the Standardbred yearlings is really good experience for working with the two and three-year-old race babies that we get here. Just that extra horse handling really comes in handy.

What is your typical day like at PBEC?

As the manager of the nuclear scintigraphy lab, I have the horses in here for bone scans. They’ll come in, I’ll do a temperature, pulse, and respiration check on them, and then I place a catheter and inject the radioactive isotopes.

It takes two hours for the isotope to settle into the bones, and then I can begin the scan. I usually inject the isotope, and then I do a lot of paperwork in between the two hours since there’s a lot of tracking and recording for dealing with radioactive materials. Then the scan begins. The horse comes into the room; they’re lightly sedated. The scans usually take from one to two hours or, for full body scan, anywhere from two to four hours. It’s a lot of keeping the horse sedated and keeping him quiet, getting all of the images that are needed, and making sure that the images turn out well. That’s pretty much my ideal day. Usually during season, we have anywhere from two to three horses a day so it keeps you busy.

What do you enjoy most about working for PBEC?

I love the variety of horses that we get here. We get everything from race horses to polo ponies to barrel ponies to top show jumpers and hunters. It’s really neat seeing all of these talented and often expensive horses.

Have you had any standout or favorite moments since you joined the PBEC team in 2015?

We went down to Miami for the Longines Global Champions Tour for when they took the horses off the plane. We were able to help out with that – doing temperatures, pulse, and respiration checks on all of them. It was really cool seeing the caravan from the airport to the show grounds and just how it’s set up on the beach. That was a pretty neat experience.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

My fiancé and I go fishing a lot usually at the beach or off a pier; we definitely enjoy spending our free time fishing.





Meet PBEC Veterinary Technician Cassidy Hoff

Cassidy Hoff (26) is the veterinary technician and assistant to Dr. Richard Wheeler of Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Originally from Middletown, CT, Cassidy joined the team at PBEC in April of 2015. Learn more here!

What is your background with horses?
I started riding and taking lessons when I was seven years old. I always had a passion for it. I went to Centenary College (now University) in Hackettstown, NJ, and rode competitively as a student. I graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Equine Studies with concentrations in Riding Instruction and Therapeutic Riding Instruction, receiving an additional PATH certification (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International).

How did you start at PBEC?
I moved down to Florida directly after graduating college in 2012 and landed my first college graduate employment as the head instructor with a local therapeutic riding center. I worked there for about three years. Through that experience, I realized that I really liked the veterinary side of the equine industry. Dr. Greenfield was the primary veterinarian for the riding center and she was really easy to work with which piqued my interest in veterinary care. I decided to try something new and I applied for a job at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. As a result, the timing was perfect to work for Dr. Wheeler.

What is your typical day like?
We usually work six days a week, but during season, seven days a week is more likely. Typically, our hours begin around 8 or 8:30 in the morning until whenever we are finished with our client calls. I am responsible for keeping the truck stocked and organized, replacing the medications that we use throughout the day, and keeping the syringes and the needles stocked. Dr. Wheeler performs many lameness cases, and I assist by scrubbing many joints for injections. We complete many pre-purchase exams that I help with in jogging horses and holding plates for radiographs, as well as final pre-purchase exam documents with the findings. We send out reports with discharge instructions and aftercare at the end of every call for our clients. I am responsible for typing up all of the necessary paperwork and billing.

What do you like about your job?

I love being able to see the horses in the barn and watch their progress from a veterinary and competitive standpoint. It is cool to take care of the horses in the barn and then go watch them perform at the horse shows once they have improved. Some of the horses are showing in the Saturday Night Lights Grand Prix classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival. You get to watch the tough competition in those big classes which adds to the excitement because you know the horse and their whole team. I feel lucky to be working with Dr. Wheeler and horses at the top level of the sport. We are lucky that all the riders, owners, trainers and managers are all amazing to work with. It takes a village to get a horse to the ring and it is really exciting to be a part of that.

What do you do when you are not working?
I still try to find time to ride, which will always be a passion of mine. It is a little bit easier when it’s off-season/summer months. I also like going to the beach, hanging out with friends, and reading for pleasure.

 Article courtesy of Jump Media

Educating Horse Owners: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Colitis

By Emily Riden, Jump Media with Dr. Selina Watt

It’s no secret that in nearly any medical condition, early diagnosis can mean a better prognosis – and Colitis in horses is no exception. The inflammation of the colon that defines Colitis can be fatal, but fortunately, with the proper detection of symptoms, immediate treatment and monitoring, a positive outcome and full recovery far outweigh a negative ending.

Understanding what Colitis is, what symptoms can indicate illness, how it is diagnosed, and what treatment plans can help in avoiding or recognizing future problems. With that in mind, Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Selina Watt has helped provide the basic information that horse owners and managers should know about Colitis in horses.

Understanding Colitis and Its Causes

 Located in the horse’s hind gut is the large colon, where microbial digestion occurs. Also, where water and a large portion of the resulting nutrients are absorbed. When this large colon becomes inflamed, the horse is diagnosed with Colitis.

While the general definition of Colitis is simple and straightforward, the causes can be more broad. However, two of the most prevalent causes occur because of a bacterial infection or overuse of medication in a very specific type of colitis called Right Dorsal Colitis. The infectious, Bacterial Colitis is often caused by agents such as Salmonella, Clostridium difficile, or Neorickettsia risticii (Potomac Horse Fever); the non-infectious, Right Dorsal Colitis is often related to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone (Bute).

No matter the cause, each form of Colitis leads to the similar inflammation of the large colon, which is where problems begin. The inflamed colon now causes the horse to have diarrhea, as the colon is unable to properly perform its job of absorbing the water and nutrients from the intestinal content.

As Colitis progresses, because of the leaky membranes of the colon, the horse can also begin to release toxins into their blood stream or lose protein from the blood into the colon; ultimately causing laminitis, founder or protein deficiencies, and a greater risk of complications or lack of a complete recovery.

Symptoms and Diagnostics

Proper detection makes the severe cases far less prevalent. The first and most conspicuous symptom of colitis is diarrhea. If the diarrhea persists, horses can also begin to show signs of dehydration or protein loss, due to the volume of fluids and nutrients excreted.

Upon noticing consistently unusual stool and diarrhea from the horse or other signs of lack of energy or appetite, it is recommended not to wait and see what develops, but rather to contact a knowledgeable veterinarian for proper diagnostics right away.

Once the horse is in the veterinarian’s hands, one of the first things that should be done is bloodwork. In the case of colitis, bloodwork will show decreased white blood cells and decreased protein levels – the severity of the results helps to indicate how advanced or severe the colitis may be. The horse will also generally present with an elevated temperature, and a diagnostic abdominal ultrasound will likely show thickening of the colon wall.

Following the initial diagnosis of colitis by Palm Beach Equine Clinic, a diarrhea sample is sent to a lab for analysis and testing for numerous types of bacteria to aid in determining whether the colitis case is infectious or non-infectious. Non-infectious cases can also be diagnosed based on the horse’s history, such as if the horse has been administered Bute for a prolonged period of time.

Treatment and Prognosis

 Horses affected by Colitis generally require hospital admittance, as they will need to be managed with IV fluids, as well as gastro protectants to aid the colon wall. Treatment is started immediately following the initial diagnosis, but should the Colitis be determined infectious, the patient will also need to go on antibiotics to treat the infection. If the bloodwork indicates low protein values, due to the lack of absorption and the protein loss through the diarrhea, plasma therapy is a necessary treatment in addition to the implemented IV fluid therapy.

At Palm Beach Equine Clinic, the intensive care management team includes a veterinarian on-call and hospital staff present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which can be necessary when battling colitis. Horses with colitis cannot be simply hooked up to fluids and left to improve, instead they generally require careful monitoring around the clock. If the primary veterinarian at Palm Beach Equine feels the case is severe, the horse will be closely monitored round the clock, in which a veterinary technician would perform requested evaluations and assessments each hour. This can be of the utmost importance, as colitis cases can often decline rapidly without proper veterinary monitoring.

Utilizing medications cautiously and with a veterinarian consent can help decrease the risk of non-infectious Colitis. Additionally, the use of a probiotic may aid in the overall health of the hind gut and the large colon. However, unfortunately there is no foolproof prevention plan for Colitis.

With early detection, diagnosis, and proper treatment, equine colitis patients present a positive prognosis. To ensure the health of your horse, the veterinary team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic is available 24/7. Horse caregivers are encouraged to contact the clinic at the first sign of a problem or suspicion.

 Article courtesy of Jump Media