Catch up on Part 1 of Considerations for the Aging Performance Horse first by clicking here.
Provide a safe, comfortable environment
Ensuring your aging has a well-bedded, sanitary space with adequate water and protection from rain, snow, direct sun, and biting insects will help keep them comfortable. Middle-age and senior horses may also become more sensitive to respiratory irritants such as mold, fungus, dust, and pollen. As a result, it is recommended that barn and stall cleaning is done while the horse is in turnout or being ridden so they do not breathe in dust stirred up during cleaning. Minimizing their exposure to these irritants by maintaining a clean and well-ventilated stable will go a long way in keeping an older horse healthy.
Like all athletes, horses can experience physical setbacks and are not always so quick to bounce back as they age. Osteoarthritis and laminitis are two common medical conditions that become more prevalent with age. It is important for the middle-age and senior performance horse to be managed with proper veterinary care, farriery, and a suitable training program.
Routine performance evaluations by a veterinarian are a useful tool in detecting subtle changes in a horse’s gait and movement before issues become injuries. A veterinarian will be able to suggest the appropriate treatment, such as anti-inflammatories, joint injections, biologic therapies, or alternative medicines, to maintain and even increase the horse’s flexibility, range of motion, balance, and ease any discomfort. Many owners begin consulting their veterinarian on regenerative and alternative therapies well before their horse has reached senior years as these therapies may help to support longevity in performance and better health for the horse’s organ and musculoskeletal systems.
Pay attention to changes in behavior and contact your veterinarian
Changes in the horse’s behavior or energy level, even minor or seemingly unimportant changes, can be indicators of underlying issues or disease. Exercise intolerance, poor coat condition, weight loss, stiffness, dropping feed, or changes in how much water they drink can be signs that something may be going on and should be communicated to your veterinarian. The sooner issues are identified, the sooner the horse can receive the right care and ultimately ward off serious illnesses.
Periodic preventative care checkups, performed at least bi-annually, can be key to catching many age-related conditions and diseases that owners may not notice in their everyday care due to a gradual onset. Involving your veterinarian in the management of your senior horse will go a long way toward ensuring their health and happiness throughout their golden years. Reach out to your Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian for any questions about your horse’s health at any age by calling 561-793-1599 to schedule an appointment.
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One of the world’s premier veterinary facilities, Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC), has signed on to support M & R Equestrian’s Training Days as a sponsor of the pioneering event operating at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, FL.
Founded by Olympic veterans Alberto Michan (ISR) and Juan Andrés Rodriguez (GUA), M & R Equestrian’s Training Days are held weekly from November through April, and offer riders of all levels the opportunity to school over a full course of show-quality jumps set by FEI course designers. Every Tuesday, three arenas—two jumper rings and an arena with hunter courses—are available and set at varying heights throughout the day to accommodate horses and riders of all ages and levels. Training Days were created as a means to prepare young horses for the show ring, scout up-and-coming sale prospects, practice horse show elements like open water jumps, and to enjoy a relaxing, confidence-building experience for an affordable price.
“Palm Beach Equine Clinic is proud to play a role in supporting the equestrian community in our area and around the globe. This training series is another tool that riders can take advantage of to prepare their horses for competing on the main stage, and our veterinary team is here to support the equine athletes in that pursuit. A few of our team members may even be spotted riding their own horses there throughout the series.”
PBEC President Dr. Scott Swerdlin
Dedicated to caring for equine patients
PBEC’s mission is to provide exceptional veterinary care for the horse and the team is committed to strengthening their relationship with clients and the community. Established in 1981, PBEC has earned a reputation across the nation and around the globe for providing the highest quality of healthcare for all horses, from Olympic caliber athletes to pasture pets. With over 35 distinguished veterinarians and a robust team of technicians, surgical, pharmacy, and hospital staff, PBEC is able to care for equine patients 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Participate in M & R Equestrian Training Days
M & R Equestrian Training Days will expand to a two-day schedule for 12 weeks beginning in January 2021, with Mondays featuring a one-of-a-kind opportunity to school under the lights during the evening. Each entry awards a horse and rider combination two minutes and 30 seconds in the arena, allowing them to jump as many fences or courses as they’d like while providing the perfect horse show dress rehearsal. For more information about M & R Equestrian’s Training Days, including updated weekly schedules and timing, find them on Facebook and Instagram.
From a veterinary perspective, horses can be considered “middle-aged” by 13 years of age, and “seniors” by 20 years of age. Although many sport horses may just be coming into their prime for training and competing during these years, horses show signs of aging at different rates just like humans do. As horses age some physiological functions start to decline, and they require extra care to maintain their overall health and condition.
Advances in diagnostics, therapies, and medications can help to support equine athletes and keep them performing well into their golden years. While many of the same health factors apply to horses of all ages, several additional and significant concerns should be considered for the aging horse.
Meet your horse’s nutritional needs
Aging impacts a horse’s ability to digest and utilize the nutrients in its feed as well as its ability to maintain weight and muscle mass. Senior horses require a diet that is highly digestible, palatable, and has an amino acid profile that will maintain muscle mass. As diet is one of the most crucial facets of a horse’s care, owners can consult their veterinarian to make sure they are fueling their aging horse with an adequate ratio and amount of high quality of forage, grains, vitamins, and minerals.
“When it comes to the best nutrition for senior horses, access to high-quality forage is very important and some horses may need free-choice quality hay to maintain optimum health,” said Dr. Marilyn Connor of Palm Beach Equine Clinic. “There are many commercially available feeds labeled as “senior” that are formulated to meet the dietary needs of the middle age to senior horse. These feed products are often beneficial to all adult horses as they are processed to be nutrient dense and highly digestible.”
There are many additional factors that go hand-in-hand with feeding a senior horse, such as minimizing the risks of colic and ensuring the best dental health. A veterinarian will be able to advise the owner if their senior’s diet is meeting the horse’s needs and setting them up for success in the years to come.
Be mindful of dental health
The digestion process begins in the mouth, so maintaining good dental health is imperative. Equine teeth, unlike human or a small animal teeth, will continue to grow throughout the horse’s life. An annual dental exam by a veterinarian will go far in preventing and fixing sharp points, hooks, chipped or fractured teeth, or damage to soft tissue within the mouth.
“In geriatric horses, the teeth are no longer erupting as quickly and as a result they may not develop sharp points as quickly. With age however, the teeth wear which causes the crown to thin and roots to shorten. As this happens, the teeth are more prone to damage and fracture. Regular dental exams – at least on an annual basis – will catch these potential issues sooner than if allowed to become problematic.”
“Another condition more common in geriatric horses is Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH). This condition affects the incisors and occasionally the canine teeth and can be very painful. Often times, EOTRH can be recognized as irritability, head shyness, or if the horse struggles to bite treats like carrots. We can make a definitive diagnosis of this through taking radiographs,” continued Dr. Davis.
Monitor internal health
Older horses are more prone to developing endocrine diseases such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID or Cushing’s disease). These diseases can lead to progressive deterioration of healthy tissue and have major negative effects on almost every bodily system in the horse. A horse with unmanaged PPID is more likely to experience episodes of laminitis, chronic infections, anhidrosis, and infertility, as well as career-ending soft tissue injuries. Research indicates that between 20 to 30 percent of horses over the age of 13 have PPID, many with no clinical signs making the disease go unnoticed.
“I recommend that all my patients over the age of 13 start annual endocrine metabolic testing to look for early changes associated with PPID or EMS. Horses can start to develop these diseases at as early as seven-years-old. I think it is critical to be proactive in the middle-age and senior horse so we can start treatments to correct the hormone imbalances before they begin to cause long term damage or the horse sustains an injury that might have otherwise been avoided.”
Routine blood tests, such as a Complete Blood Count (CBC) or Serum Chemistry analysis are useful in identifying changes to the horse’s red and white blood cell counts (to see if they may be anemic) and to assess internal organ function. Having your horse tested every six to 12 months will be helpful for tracking and detecting any changes in their health and implementing treatment early on.
Immune system function also gradually declines with age, making middle-age and senior horses more susceptible to illnesses. It is important for owners to stay vigilant and up to date on their horse’s core vaccines, and to consult their veterinarian about timing and frequency of boosters to make sure their horse is protected.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic also recommends routine fecal testing to evaluate the horse’s internal parasite count and implementing a consistent deworming program. This is imperative for clients based in Florida year-round due to the lack of frost which usually kills many parasite eggs in northern climates. Fecal egg count testing should be performed twice per year, in the spring and fall, to assess parasite load in the intestines. It is important to note that not all parasites are susceptible to every deworming product, and the results of a fecal test will give the veterinarian insights as to the type of parasites and which dewormer is best to administer for that unique horse. Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians have access to the laboratory equipment onsite to run the vast majority of these tests for rapid same day results.
Dr. Janet Greenfield Davis has recently notched another professional title to her name as a Certified Equine Rehabilitation and Performance Veterinarian (CERPV). The certification through the Integrative Veterinary Medical Institute aims to enhance the high-level sport horse medicine practitioner’s ability to localize the root cause of performance deficits, evaluate the horse’s biomechanics on a segmented level, and select the appropriate rehabilitation tools. The CERPV distinguishes veterinarians who possess the knowledge and skills to spot slight variations in a horse’s gait and performance before they lead to lameness and deliver an elevated quality of rehabilitation management.
“I chose to pursue this certification as an extension of my understanding of the many intricacies with both movement and muscle of the sport horse. This deeper understanding goes toward helping keep my clients’ horses in the best condition for peak performance, heal stronger after injury, and prevent injuries from happening in the first place.”
Dr. Greenfield Davis
Dr. Greenfield Davis built on her knowledge of how the equine athlete functions through in-depth courses on the anatomy, biomechanics, and neuromuscular control in performance horses. Specific courses focused on the physiology and function of muscles, tendons, and joints with an emphasis on ways to develop strong tissue to avoid injury. Dr. Greenfield Davis analyzed how and when to apply specific rehabilitation tools; lasers, therapeutic ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, pulsed electro-magnetic field technology, vibration plates, hyperbaric therapy, hydrotherapy, and regenerative medicine. The certification also emphasized the effects of a foal’s environment on its future athletic performance, issues that may arise when conditioning young, growing horses, and nutrition at different levels of training.
This CERPV adds to her current titles of Bachelors of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVMS) from the University of Glasgow – a degree akin to US based universities’ Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – and her designation as a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS). Dr. Greenfield also earned her Certification in Veterinary Acupuncture (CVA) through the Chi Institute (presently Chi University) which she applies to her large and small animal patients. Acting as a mentor to aspiring Chinese and alternative medicine practitioners, Dr. Greenfield has advised students enrolled in acupuncture studies. She has provided insight to many veterinary students through Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Externship Program as well.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Founder Recognized for Outstanding Contributions to the Sport of Polo
The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame will honor Dr. Paul Wollenman as a 2021 Inductee of the Philip Iglehart Award in recognition of his exceptional lifetime contributions to the sport of polo on a regional and national level.
Beginning his career as the youngest graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine at only 21-years-old, he has dedicated nearly five decades to the polo and veterinary industries. He has taken an integral role in the polo community by educating teams on proper care and supporting the world’s top equine athletes. Dr. Wollenman has worked in an advisory capacity for the Equine Welfare Committee of the United States Polo Association (USPA). He has mentored Team USPA participants and the National Youth Tournament Series teams by giving lectures, counseling members on proper horse care, and aiding with their veterinary issues. As an amateur 2-goal handicap player himself, Dr. Wollenman is fortunate to thoroughly enjoy the sport and career in which he is revered.
When asked his thoughts on the Iglehart Induction announcement, Dr. Wollenman said, “Over the years, I had occasionally heard my name mentioned when people besides famous high-goal players were inducted. When Chrys Beal called to tell me that I was voted unanimously into this year’s honorees, I felt somewhat embarrassed and undeserving. Still, the influx of congratulatory phone calls and messages I have received about my induction from owners, polo players, and grooms has made me even more happy and proud of my life and career choices.
“I’ve been blessed by many wonderful and colorful relationships with friends and clients in the polo community,” Dr. Wollenman continued. “Most of all, I am incredibly lucky and thankful for my wife, Renee, who understands the demands of veterinary medicine and polo. She played polo collegiately and throughout her adult life, raised two wonderful sons who have both become doctors, and has supported me throughout the long, arduous hours of veterinary medicine.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have great veterinary partners and smart, driven associates who have helped build Palm Beach Equine Clinic not only into a massively successful equine hospital, but also an enjoyable place to work and grow professionally. It is truly my second home and has allowed me to concentrate on polo medicine,” he concluded.
Photos by the United States Polo Association.
“During a career that spans 48 years, Dr. Wollenman’s expertise as a veterinarian caring for the horses of some of the nation’s finest polo teams has been a factor in helping the sport of polo. Noted for his sound and practical advice as well as ingenious solutions to complicated injuries, he has spent most of a lifetime striving to improve the care and welfare of the horses that make polo possible.”
2021 Honorees Announcement by the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame.
The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame will recognize Dr. Wollenman and the 2021 Inductees this February through their media channels. A formal Induction Ceremony and Gala will be held in February of 2022 in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic so that inductees’ families, friends and fans may be present. Dr. Wollenman was nominated by a committee of eminent and knowledgeable individuals across the sport of polo who voted to elect this year’s winners.
Read about the 2021 Polo Hall of Fame Inductees by going to the Museum’s Facebook page linked below.
2021 POLO HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES CHOSEN
For the 32nd year of inductions into the Polo Hall of Fame, we have the honor…
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.
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
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:
Balance 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.
Hunters and jumpers typically benefit from vertebral adjustments of the lumbar and upper cervical regions, ribs, sternum, front distal limbs, and the shoulders.
Most eventing horses benefit from adjustments to the pelvis, all cervical vertebrae, TMJ, ribs, and the shoulders.
Reiners 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian Dr. Marilyn Connor was recently featured in The Equestrian Podcast by My Equestrian Style where she explains her path to practicing equine medicine. Listen and learn about Dr. Connor by clicking on the recording below. For more on Dr. Connor, click here to read more about her and her interests in veterinary care.
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?
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.
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 Mitchell Huster treats often. According to Dr. Mitchell, 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
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. Mitchell. “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. Mitchell. “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:
Fly control with automatic fly control systems, fly masks, sheets, boots, and a sheath protector.
Proper manure removal of two to three times per day.
Appropriate wound care using topicals such as a silver nitrate stick (when not bleeding) and bandages to keep wounds protected from flies.
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. Mitchell 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. Mitchell. “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. Mitchell 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.