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Year: 2020

Your Chiropractic Questions Answered with Dr. Ryan Lukens

Horse owners often joke that they take better care of their horses than they do themselves. While there are maintenance treatments and products that could be considered a luxury, veterinary chiropractic adjustments do not fall into that category. Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Ryan Lukens is a certified Veterinary Medical Manipulation Practitioner from the Chi Institute in Ocala, FL, and recommends every horse reap the benefits of regular chiropractic adjustments.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Ryan Lukens Veterinary Chiropractic Adjustment Manipulation
Dr. Ryan Lukens performing a veterinary chiropractic adjustment to the thoracic vertebrae.

From minis to draft horses and pasture pets to top sport mounts, the parasympathetic stimulation triggered by chiropractic adjustments improves multiple facets of health for any horse. Therefore, equine chiropractic adjustments improve more than just athletic performance, and for sport horses, Dr. Lukens considers them a necessity.

“One of the most beneficial outcomes of regular veterinary chiropractic adjustments is an increase in range of motion,” said Dr. Lukens. “Ensuring the horse has proper range of motion can greatly reduce the chances of them having to physically compensate for an area that may not be functioning up to par. By reducing the chances of compensation, we reduce the chances of many common sport hose injuries. Most athletic injuries occur when a horse is slightly off balance due to compensating. Regular chiropractic adjustments help horses to maintain their natural balance.”

According to Dr. Lukens, further benefits of veterinary chiropractic adjustments include:

  • Relief of pain and soreness
  • Reversal of muscle atrophy by increasing the frequency of nerve activation
  • Increasing the speed and accuracy of athletic movement
  • Adjustments help calm the “fight or flight” response. This has a domino effect of improving various bodily functions, such as neutralizing stomach acids, improving hind gut digestion, lowering blood pressure, lowering cortisol levels, and strengthening the immune system.

Dr. Lukens outlines the “must know” details of an equine chiropractic adjustment for any sport horse owner. Here’s what he would like you to understand about your horse’s chiropractic adjustment:

1. The major adjustment points.

I take a full body approach to every session. There are 205 bones that comprise the skeleton of a horse, however, I am not just adjusting the skeleton­­––I work to improve motion at segmented levels that involve bones and the supporting soft tissue structures and nerves. I was taught to use “motion palpation” to test moving segments. If a segment is not moving freely in the appropriate directional planes, I can perform an adjustment to correct the restriction of this movement. 

Major adjustment points include the:

  • Mandible and tongue
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • Poll and cervical vertebrae
  • Withers and sternum
  • Front and hind limbs
  • Thoracic and lumbar vertebrae
  • Pelvis/sacrum

2. Every horse is different, and their discipline of riding places different demands on their bodies.

The most common adjustments for various performance horses include:

DisciplineCommon Adjustments
DressageBalance is essential for dressage. The major points of balance affected by veterinary chiropractic work are the TMJ, hyoid, sternum, and cervical facets. Other common adjustments affected by lateral work include the shoulders, elbows, and pelvis.
Hunter/JumperHunters and jumpers typically benefit from vertebral adjustments of the lumbar and upper cervical regions, ribs, sternum, front distal limbs, and the shoulders.
EventingMost eventing horses benefit from adjustments to the pelvis, all cervical vertebrae, TMJ, ribs, and the shoulders.
Western DisciplinesReiners benefit from adjustments to their right shoulder, lower cervical facets, withers and pelvis, and barrel racers benefit from shoulder, sacroiliac and hip joint adjustments.

3. Things to keep in mind before and after an adjustment.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Ryan Lukens Veterinary Chiropractic Adjustment Manipulation soulder
Dr. Ryan Lukens performing a veterinary chiropractic adjustment to a horse’s shoulder.

It is important that dental and farrier work is not overdue before veterinary chiropractic adjustments. Sharp dental points can cause adjustments to hold for shorter periods of time, especially in the poll, TMJ, and cervical vertebrae. In addition, if a horse is currently not shod well or has recently pulled a shoe, the adjustments of their limbs, back, pelvis and sacrum may not provide long lasting benefits.

Besides those prerequisites, a horse can be ridden before an appointment and have a normal day. The only restriction on riding is that they should not be ridden for the remainder of the day after the adjustment. However, they may be turned out to pasture after an adjustment. The following day, I encourage that the horse be ridden as normal and that the owner or rider follow up with me about how they felt.  

I prefer to see new patients two weeks after their initial adjustment appointment. After the second appointment, I sit down with the rider to discuss and compare the chiropractic adjustments performed between the two sessions. If I made multiple of the same adjustments, their appointment intervals will stay at every two weeks. Once there is a decrease in similar adjustments, I can increase the time interval between sessions to three weeks.  Some horses can maintain the adjustments for about four to six weeks when under lighter work. The rider can usually feel when a horse is due for another adjustment.   As a rule, high-level performance horse can benefit from chiropractic adjustments as often as every week, but the most common interval for my clients at that level is every other week. 

4. Chiro to the rescue! Common issues:

I often see some common issues solved by a veterinary chiropractic adjustment. For jumpers, changes in jumping style (i.e. landing away from a front limb, only jumping off of a certain lead) and performance (hitting more rails than normal) could indicate a lack of range of motion, which can be corrected through a proper adjustment or series of adjustments. 

For dressage horses, a change in their balance could result in head tilting, not working through their back, lifting the lower cervical curve, or their hind limbs not following the path of the front limbs, and commonly seen in a new inability to perform tempi changes. That balance can be reestablished with an adjustment.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Ryan Lukens Veterinary Chiropractic Adjustment Manipulation  vertebrae
Veterinary chiropractic adjustment to the horse’s vertebrae.

For western horses, a decrease in acceleration and turning can be indicative of needing adjustments.

5. How to choose your equine chiropractor.

The Chi Institute in Ocala, FL, trains only licensed veterinarians in medical manipulations (chiropractic adjustments). I believe that a veterinarian trained in chiropractic adjustments is the safest choice for the horse. A veterinarian’s extensive knowledge of anatomy and understanding of when not to adjust a horse is an important part of ensuring the horse’s safety and well-being. If done improperly, adjustments can have adverse effects. I received my certification (CVMMP, or Certified Veterinary Medical Manipulation Practitioner) in 2017 and have had great success in implementing chiropractic adjustments into my patients’ athletic successes. 

To learn more about veterinary chiropractic adjustments or to schedule an evaluation for your horse, contact Dr. Lukens at Palm Beach Equine Clinic by calling 561-793-1599.

Meet the PBEC Team: Hospital Manager Holly Hall

palm beach equine clinic hospital manager holly jacobs hall

To properly operate an equine hospital, each member of the team must have the same goal in mind: high quality health care. Strong teamwork and leadership are essential, and Palm Beach Equine Clinic is fortunate to have our Equine Hospital led by Holly Hall. Born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, Holly has been an indispensable member of Palm Beach Equine Clinic family for over five years.

Get to know PBEC Hospital Manager Holly Hall


What is your background with horses?

My parents introduced me to horseback riding lessons when I was young. I originally rode English for a few years before finding that I had more of a desire for speed. I started barrel racing when I was eight years old and haven’t stopped since. My parents bought me my first horse when I was about nine years old, and soon that one horse turned into multiple horses. Throughout my high school years, I went to school in the mornings, worked at the barn in the evenings, and barrel raced on the weekends.

Holly with her mare Benelli.

What was your original role at Palm Beach Equine Clinic?

Originally, I joined PBEC as a part time night technician and have since worked my way up to Hospital Management. Since my first days at PBEC, I have always loved the endless knowledge and experiences that I encounter and grow from every day. I immediately took an interest in emergency and surgical cases. I took every opportunity I could to experience and learn as many new things as possible about equine health.

Although my official position has always been with the hospital, I have gained experience in other aspects of the clinic throughout my time here. I am one of PBEC’s primary surgical technicians, have skills in preforming laboratory procedures, have worked with multiple doctor’s as their ambulatory technician, traveled to horse shows with our team, transported emergencies in our ambulance, and much more! I am always eager to lend a hand and take advantage of any opportunity to learn something new.

What are your daily responsibilities?

Throughout the day I manage patient care, hospital organization and our team of hospital technicians. I am responsible for updating patient’s Clinician Orders as per doctor’s orders and scheduling each patient’s treatment plan for the next 24 to 48 hours. The hospital technicians use these Clinician Orders to treat each patient and update medical records. Along with the technicians, I assist in completing treatments, procedures, surgeries, laboratory tasks, assist with admittance and prepare hospital patients for discharge. I also ensure that the hospital is well-stocked for any patient needs.

I am responsible for managing the technicians and their work schedules as we are an Emergency Hospital. The hospital is staffed with skilled technicians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This includes all holidays and throughout storms. Our hospital team is responsible for the care of all PBEC patients, including the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)/surgery, Isolation (Quarantine), Annex (horse show) and Imaging stalls. Although our responsibilities seem endless, our hospital staff has a great system of communicating and we are dedicated to working hard for our patients and clients.

What aspects of Hospital Management do you most enjoy?

I really enjoy the intensity of helping with emergency cases and working in a surgical setting. Being a part of the initial work up, diagnostics, and watching our patients progress on their road to recovery is very satisfying. You never stop learning in medicine, and I appreciate the endless opportunities that I have to learn. 

Holly Jacobs Hall Palm Beach Equine CLinic

It is also interesting to be able to work with such a wide variety of horses. As technicians first and foremost, we must have the skills as horsemen to recognize the horse’s behaviors for personality traits versus potential changes to the state of their health. Carefully recognizing these symptoms and abnormal behaviors contributes to each patient’s treatment and enables us to make sure the horses are as comfortable and happy as possible.

Although our work is focused on the horses, we work with a large team of people to provide with best care possible. All our staff –veterinarians, technicians, interns, residents, specialists, surgeons, laboratory, pharmacy, imaging, and office administration –contribute to high quality patient care. I enjoy being a part of this team and watching all our efforts come together for our patients and client needs.

When not in the Equine Hospital, what do you enjoy doing or where can we find you?

My husband and I love being outdoors. We typically find ourselves out in the woods, on the water, or (of course) on the back of a fast horse! We mostly enjoy air boating and barrel races during our free time. Enjoying the company of our close family and friends, while doing what we love the most.

Holly and Benelli competing in the National Barrel Horse Association Finals in 2018.
Holly and Benelli competing in the National Barrel Horse Association Finals in 2018.
Holly Jacobs Hall Palm Beach Equine CLinic
Holly airboating with her husband Dustin.
Holly Jacobs Palm Beach Equine Clinic Hospital Manager

Meet the PBEC Team: Intern Dr. Charley McColough

Meet the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Team | Dr. Charley McColough
Charley McColough, BVetMed, MRCVS

Dr. McColough completed his undergraduate studies at Wake Forest University with a double major in Biology and Spanish. Upon graduation, Dr. McColough obtained a certification in Phlebotomy and worked as a Biomedical Research Technician for Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. In this position, he performed hematology and oncology research assays, blood and bone marrow processing, separation, analysis, and cryopreservation, and analyzed cells for DNA extraction.

Dr. McColough volunteered for the Sea Research Foundation in his home state of Connecticut, where he led immunophenotyping for the Marine Mammal Immunological Diagnostics Program that was funded by the Office of Naval Research. His efforts in data analysis contributed to the programs ability to receive grant funding. Dr. McColough also volunteered for the Aquatic Animal Health Center of New York Aquarium as a veterinary assistant where he worked with diverse marine life, such as penguins, walruses, otters, seals, and various fish and amphibians.

Evolving from sea to land animals, Dr. McColough gained experience as a veterinary technician for a small animal hospital in New York City, and then decided to pursue a doctorate in veterinary medicine at the Royal Veterinary College of London in the United Kingdom. Throughout his studies, he completed several research projects, including the investigation of early loss of pregnancy in thoroughbred mares, and the culture, fluorescent microscopy, and flow cytometric analysis of primary equine trophoblast cells. Dr. McColough completed an externship at Palm Beach Equine Clinic during his final year of veterinary school and has been keen on pursuing a career in equine sports medicine.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is proud to welcome new intern Charley McColough, BVetMed, MRCVS, to our team! Learn more about Dr. McColough:


What inspired you to become a veterinarian?

The dream started for me while I was a Research Intern at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT. I was performing immunology assays on beluga whale blood and working closely with the veterinary team. I was both profoundly impressed and mystified by the skill set and knowledge base that the veterinarians exhibited. Simply put, I wanted to know what they knew.

Why did you choose to pursue equine medicine?

I have wanted to work with large animals since I was a veterinary technician at a small animal practice in Greenwich Village of New York City. I was working with toy breed dogs – some of which never seemed to set foot on the ground – all the while dreaming about working outside with large animals. I was drawn to, and began my veterinary profession in, the equestrian industry because I have been keenly interested in the athleticism of the horse.

Are there any standout cases that you have especially enjoyed working on so far at PBEC?

There was a case that was referred to PBEC following a laceration and repair in the region of the lower jaw. The horse recovered from the laceration but saliva would spurt from the wound when the horse ate. It was amazing to watch the PBEC team catheterize the parotid salivary duct from the buccal surface of the mouth and use ultrasound to catheterize the same duct as it left the parotid gland caudal to the mandibular ramus. The surgeons were able to dissect down and locate both ends of the severed parotid duct and oppose them over a continuous catheter placed from the gland to the buccal surface. Essentially, they found two needles in a haystack and reconnected them to allow proper flow of saliva for the horse.

When not at PBEC, what do you enjoy doing and where can we find you?

Charley McColough Family

In past years, you might have found me on a rock climbing wall or tossing a Frisbee in a wide open field. Nowadays, you’ll find me at home with my wife Ashley and our 9-month-old son Max, making tacos and burgers out of his Fisher-Price food truck.

Treating Equine Summer Sores

Healthcare Reminder: Treating Equine Summer Sores

Healthcare Reminder

Summer heat is in full force across the states, and with high temperatures and humid conditions comes an elevated risk for equine summer sores. Flies thrive in these conditions which can create many nagging problems for horses. One of the most serious problems are equine summer sores, which are medically known as habronemiasis, granular dermatitis, and jack sores.

Summer sores are an unfortunate yet common occurrence in areas with warmer climates, and a problem that Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Meredith Hustler treats often. According to Dr. Hustler, prevention is key, but proper and prompt treatment is paramount if a summer sore does emerge.

Understanding Summer Sores

Summer sores are lesions on the skin caused by the larvae of equine stomach worms Habronema. These worms in the horse’s stomach produce eggs that pass through the digestive tract and are shed in the horse’s feces. Barn flies typically gather around manure and ultimately collect the parasite’s larvae on their extremities. Summer sores will occur when flies carrying the larvae deposit their eggs onto an open wound or the mucous membranes of a horse. This typically includes areas such as the prepuce, lower abdomen, corners of the eyes, and margins of the lips. The larvae cause an inflammatory reaction, often with discharge and the production of granulation tissue infected with larvae.

Signs that a horse may be suffering from summer sores:

  • Non-healing skin lesions
  • Intense itching
  • Formation of exuberant granulation tissue (proud flesh)
  • Calcified necrosis (dead tissue)

“The proud flesh that can appear as a summer sore is a product of the irritation and hypersensitive reaction from the larvae,” said Dr. Hustler. “Once a summer sore is properly diagnosed, the end goal of treatment is to kill both the adult larvae and the flies themselves.”

Detection & Prevention

“Firstly, it is incredibly important that the owner does not assume a lesion is a summer sore because of its appearance or their experience with summer sores,” said Dr. Hustler. “Granulation tissue can look like a summer sore but actually be the result of a different infection or skin issue. So, it is crucial to contact a veterinarian at the first sign of a potential summer sore before any treatment is administered.”

Commonly, a summer sore is the visible granulation of tissue containing small yellow, rice-like larvae within the skin and a mucopurulent (mucus or pus-like) discharge associated with the wound. Prevention is the most effective way of controlling summer sore outbreaks. The best way to protect horses is to implement effective methods for:

  1. Fly control with automatic fly control systems, fly masks, sheets, boots, and a sheath protector.
  2. Proper manure removal of two to three times per day.
  3. Appropriate wound care using topicals such as a silver nitrate stick (when not bleeding) and bandages to keep wounds protected from flies.
  4. Implementing an effective de-worming program (Quest+, Power Pack Ivermectin, or Dectomax treatment).

A diligent de-worming program is the most important element of prevention because effective de-wormer disrupts the parasite’s life cycle internally. The key is to kill both adult worms in the stomach and the larvae that form in the skin tissue.

Many owners also chose to plan ahead by supplementing their horse’s diet with immune boosting natural supplements. “Sometimes with patients that have stagnant, non-healing summer sores, they can really benefit from being prescribed herbal medicines. I’ve seen many horse’s do well on the Chinese Herb Wei Qi Booster in particular,” Dr. Hustler remarked.

Treating Summer Sores

For treatment of the summer sore itself, corticosteroids are administered to reduce the inflammatory hypersensitivity reaction. Antimicrobials are administered to treat any secondary infection that may develop as the result of the open wound. If not treated quickly and appropriately by a veterinarian, summer sores can persist for months and possibly require a costly surgical procedure to remove the granulated tissue and larvae.

“The standard summer sore treatment is debridement of the wound and an injection of Ivermectin (Noromectin),” continued Dr. Hustler. “However, more medicine is not more effective with summer sores. The larvae and flies can develop a resistance to the treatment. So, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian for dosage information. Also, this particular treatment does not include preservatives. Therefore, it is imperative that an unopened bottle is always used to prevent contamination that could lead to an abscess in the injection site.”

Additionally, there are local injections that can be administered directly around or into the lesion itself to promote healing. Dr. Hustler also relies on oral treatments, such as Prednisolone and Dexamethasone tablets, depending on the patient’s case.

At the first sign of a summer sore, contact your veterinarian at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Call 561-793-1599 to discuss treatment and develop an effective fly-management program for your barn.

PBEC Veterinary Technician Earns AAEVT Certification

Congratulations to Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s own Kim Emmons on her completion of the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians (AAEVT) Equine Certificate Program!

Kim and Casen Emmons

Kim has over 25 years of experience as a certified veterinary assistant, but she was eager to advance her knowledge through this additional certification. Now, she is formally recognized as an equine specialist in the field, distinguished by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) and the AAEVT. She also serves as an AAEVT Regional Contact for Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The AAEVT Regional Contacts, along with the Board, meet monthly via zoom call to discuss training and education, local and regional happenings in the equine veterinary industry, business plans, and more industry news.

To acquire this certification, Kim completed courses on equine diseases and parasitology, nursing care, pharmacology, surgical assistance and anesthesia, laboratory diagnostics, imaging modalities and much more.  

Palm Beach Equine Clinic has been incredibly fortunate to have Kim as part of our team for over 22 years. Her steadfast dedication to providing the highest quality patient care, contributions to hospital management, and willingness to lend a helping hand in any situation are qualities that make Kim an incredible person and asset to PBEC. Please join our team in congratulating Kim on her accomplishment! 

Kim Emmons American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians Certificate

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Teams with Acreage Groups for Equine Hurricane Preparedness Clinic

Palm Beach Equine Clinic provided veterinary services for horse owners as part of a new clinic series by the Acreage Landowners’ Association, Western Equestrian Shows and Trails, and the Indian Trail Improvement District.

Loxahatchee, FL (August 18, 2020) – Kicking off a first-of-its-kind clinic series for horse owners of western Palm Beach County, several Acreage groups enlisted the veterinary team of Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) to provide hurricane preparedness expertise. The clinic, held on August 15, 2020, at Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park in Loxahatchee, Florida, was originally scheduled for the first of the month, but was postponed in true Florida fashion due to Hurricane Isaias.

The Equine Hurricane Preparedness Clinic garnered a couple dozen attendees, masked up with their horses in tow. Kim Emmons, Western Equestrian Shows and Trails (WEST) Clinic Director and certified equine veterinary technician, is the driving force behind the event series.

“I’ve lived in and have been active in our local equestrian community for over 20 years,” said Emmons, who led the discussion on best practices for horse owners during hurricane season.

“The goal of this clinic series is to educate our local equestrian community and provide opportunities for horse owners of all ages and disciplines to become better, more well-rounded horsemen.”

Kim Emmons

Through attending equestrian events, teaching at camps, and her experience as a veterinary technician, Emmons has met many horse owners who lack the correct skills and knowledge on basic horse health and care. “I have always found it really rewarding to share my knowledge by teaching people the proper, practical skills for caring for their horses. Things such as correct leg bandaging, taking their horse’s vitals, listening to gut sounds, and teaching people on when they need to call a veterinarian are all essential for a horse owner to know. I used to teach an equine healthcare camp, and I am so proud to see those young campers grow into the smart, well-rounded equestrians they are today.”

The clinic series is free to attend, with fees for trailering in and offered membership packages, and will be based at Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park for the foreseeable future.

PBEC provided special reduced rates on equine vaccinations, Coggins (Equine Infectious Anemia) testing, and microchipping services performed by Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis and Dr. Charley McColough.

“We understand that, especially now in these pandemic times, many people are struggling to cover their horse’s expenses,” said PBEC veterinarian Dr. Greenfield-Davis. “We are happy to be here for the community by providing these essential services at more affordable prices and in a more convenient location for the Acreage horsemen.”

WEST, a new subcommittee of the Acreage Landowners’ Association (ALA), is led by fellow longtime Acreage resident Dixie Thiery.  

“All of our efforts are focused on promoting and protecting the wonderful equestrian lifestyle we are lucky to enjoy here,” said Thiery. “We hope that WEST and this clinic series will help strengthen our community by giving people an easy, convenient way to learn and meet their neighboring equestrians. We are also very fortunate to be supported by the Indian Trail Improvement District, which is responsible for this park, and we are working with them to update our local trail system maps and better plan for equestrian-safe roadways and developments.”

ALA, WEST, ITID and PBEC plan to work together in the future by collaborating to bring horse shows, tack sales, exhibitions, and other educational events for equestrians to the area. The association’s next clinic is planned for September 19 and will focus on basic equine first aid.

Show Jumper Returns to Top of Leader Board After Colic Surgery

In January of 2020, Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian and board-certified surgeon Dr. Weston Davis performed colic surgery on Bull Run Jumpers Prince of Peace. Piloted by Kristen VanderVeen, “Prince” has proven he has fully recovered and is back in peak condition in August of 2020 by claiming the top spot in the $36,600 Traverse City Speed Classic CSI3* at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival.

Congratulations to this fantastic pair from the entire PBEC Team!

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is incredibly proud to have been entrusted with the health and well-being of Prince and numerous other colic surgery patients who have gone on to make full recoveries, returning to training and competing as they were before the colic.

Each colic surgery case has its own specifics, and during Prince’s recovery, he particularly benefited from strategic veterinary use of the regenerative therapy RenoVo to strengthen the abdominal wall at the surgical incision. Dr. Davis adjusted Prince’s recovery plan as he returned to more intense exercise by using this regenerative medicine to provide some cellular scaffolding and growth factors to encourage proper tissue repair of the abdominal wall.

For more information on colic surgery, regenerative therapies, or to talk to Dr. Davis about your own horse’s needs, please call 561-793-1599 or fill out the form below.

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From The Pharmacy: New Xiang Ru San

Option for Anhidrosis

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is proud to offer a wide range of treatments and therapies, including select Chinese herbal medicines. New Xiang Ru San is one such herbal medicine that can be used to treat horses suffering from anhidrosis, or the inability to sweat normally. Anhidrosis can be a common challenge, particularly in hot, humid climates. New Xiang Ru powder has proven to be a clinically effective aid for non-sweaters as it promotes heat and fluid disbursement through healthy sweating. New Xiang Ru San is a blend of the Chinese herbs Bian Dou (hyacinth bean), Xiang Ru (mosla), Hou Po (magnolia bark), Lian Qiao (forsythia) and Jin Yin Hua (honeysuckle flower).

Chinese herbal medicine is a relatively new treatment among equine veterinarians in the western world, but the philosophy of using herbals in healing has existed for thousands of years as part of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). An adaptation of all-natural methods used to treat humans, herbal medicine for animals utilizes ancient Chinese formulas aimed at understanding and treating the underlying causes of a particular disease or illness in order to help the body heal itself, rather than only treating the presented symptoms.

Talk to your PBEC veterinarian about options for treating anhidrosis or call 561-793-1599 to set up an appointment.

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A Healthy Mouth is a Supple Mouth

Healthcare Reminder: Equine Dentistry

equine dentistry dr. tyler davis palm beach equine clinic
Dr. Tyler Davis performing a tooth extraction.

The general goals of equine dentistry may appear straight-forward but include a complex system of evaluations that in turn affect the entire body and well-being of a horse. At its core, equine dentistry encompasses the objectives of maintaining even tooth wear, treating infection or disease, allowing for proper digestion, and promoting longevity. Dr. Tyler Davis of Palm Beach Equine Clinic says that routine and thorough dental exams can help prevent many issues from ever becoming problems.

Why do horses require dental care?

Horses grind their food into a finely masticated bolus before swallowing. The combination of a horse’s upper jaw being larger than the lower jaw, and the fact that a horse chews by moving their jaws from side to side results in uneven wear of the teeth. This uneven wear may cause sharp edges to form, which hinder efficient chewing and may ulcerate or tear the cheeks and tongue. Uneven wear can also cause the horse to swallow food that isn’t properly chewed and can lead to more daunting problems such as colic.

Dentistry supple mouth equine clinic

No horse is exempt from needing their teeth cared for by a veterinarian. For sport horses, however, dental care becomes even more crucial. Much of the connection between horse and rider comes by way of the horse’s mouth, and depending on the discipline, the horse may always have pressure in their mouth. If there are problems or discomfort within the mouth, it can become evident in the horse’s performance and disposition under saddle.

According to Dr. Davis, having a horse’s teeth in perfect shape allows one to immediately rule out dental issues when trying to troubleshoot a performance problem. A “sound mouth” also allows the best condition for supple, soft, and accurate connections between horse and rider through the bridle.

What is floating?

On a basic level, most horses require a routine float. 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.

“A proper dental exam using a lightweight speculum, a very good light source, and a dental mirror allows me to see any possible problems and prevent those problems from becoming painful and affecting a horse’s performance and overall health,” said Dr. Davis.

How often should you have a veterinarian perform a routine dental exam on your horse?

Dr. Davis recommends an exam every 12 months at a minimum. For many sport horses, the demands of their competition schedule may require bi-yearly exams to prevent any problems that could sideline them from training or events. Lastly, any horse with a history of dental problems may require exams every three to four months. Without routine dental exams by a veterinarian, uneven wear can escalate to a serious health problem.

The most common signs of dental discomfort in horses include:

  • head-tilting and tossing
  • difficulty chewing
  • bit-chewing and tongue lolling
  • tail-wringing, bucking and other behavioral issues
  • drooling and bad breath
  • (sometimes) weight loss and spillage of grain
palm beach equine clinic preventative medicine

Technological Advances

While it is the owner’s responsibility to develop a diligent care routine, the veterinary community has done its part by continuously improving evaluation and diagnostic technology. Advances in instruments, such as the speculum and imaging technologies, allow veterinarians to better understand and examine the equine mouth. In turn, they are able to diagnose and treat dental problems more effectively.

Equine dental health is far more involved than simply evaluation the outward appearance of the teeth. While trained eyes can see external problems, and educated hands can feel for abnormalities, assessing internal issues can be done through diagnostic imaging. Improved imaging technology has greatly expanded Dr. Davis’ ability to find and analyze unseen problems in the mouth.

Diagnostic Imaging - Computed Tomography
Diagnostic Imaging – Standing Computed Tomography

Portable imaging technology, such as digital radiography (x-rays) allows him to conveniently understand dental pathology better for his patients in the field. While Standing Computed Tomography (CT) allows Dr. Davis to capture a comprehensive, multiplanar profile of all the structures within the horse’s head, with the horse only lightly sedated.

“Having these advanced imaging modalities available for my patients allows us to thoroughly identify an issue and then intervene as early as possible to treat the issue, relieve discomfort, or prevent tooth loss,” commented Dr. Davis.

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

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