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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 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

PBEC’s Dr. Samantha Miles Discusses Equine Laminitis

Laminitis is a frightening word for horse owners. The causes are many, the treatment is difficult, and the prognosis is uncertain. While laminitis can present as common lameness or discomfort, the best action at any sign of distress is immediate intervention and early treatment from an experienced veterinarian. Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Samantha Miles recently discussed some of the causes, treatments, and outcomes of this disease.

What is Laminitis?

Laminitis is a complicated disease of the hoof that can develop for a variety of reasons. The lamina is a connective tissue that suspends the pedal (coffin) bone in the foot, and holds the whole hoof capsule together. If there is inflammation of the lamina, that suspension breaks down and the coffin bone becomes very unstable. The bone can tip forward and rotate, causing the hoof to “sink”. The deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) also attaches to the coffin bone and pulls on it. When the DDFT pulls against the lamina, it can increase the downward rotation of the bone and have very painful and devastating results. In severe cases, the bone will rotate through the sole of the hoof, causing irreparable damage that leads to euthanasia.

What Causes Laminitis?

How laminitis develops is a difficult and multi-factorial question. One of the major causes understood more in recent years is metabolic disease. Horses that develop insulin resistance have decreased blood flow that can cause a laminitic episode in the foot. Obesity, insulin resistance, and subsequent laminitis form Equine Metabolic Syndrome. It is most commonly seen in ponies, but can affect any equine.

Though not a common problem in South Florida due to the poor quality of grass, most of the country sees a rise in laminitis cases during the spring seasons. Due to high levels of sugar in lush grass, many horses develop metabolic issues during these times that add to insulin resistance and decrease insulin sensitivity.

Another cause of laminitis is steroids, but Dr. Miles emphasized that this is really horse dependent. Some horses do not tolerate steroids well, and other horses can take a lot of steroids for various medical issues with no complications. Ponies seem to be the most sensitive to steroid induced laminitis. It is not the most common cause of laminitis, and Dr. Miles emphasized that this is not a reason to exclude the use of steroids in many cases.

A very serious and fast acting cause of laminitis is any illness that causes gram-negative bacteria to die off in the horse, such as colitis (severe diarrhea). When the gram-negative bacteria are dying, it can cause the release of endotoxins that will damage the lamina. These cases are a big concern for treating veterinarians because the horse can develop laminitis very fast, and early intervention is the only chance for prevention. However, these cases can be challenging to treat and can end in fatality.

Dr. Miles stated, “Sometimes laminitis just happens randomly, and we can’t find a reason unfortunately. It can happen in just one foot and be severe, and we just don’t know why it came about.”

This pony had an acute episode of laminitis coupled with metabolic disease that caused one foot to rotate fairly rapidly with the other foot intact. The line of the pedal bone should be parallel to the hoof wall line, but it has rotated so that there is a larger space between the tip of the coffin bone and the hoof wall versus the coffin bone at the coronary band and hoof wall. Photo courtesy Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

What are the Symptoms?

“Laminitis presents itself in many different ways,” Dr. Miles noted. “Usually the horse will not want to walk or move forward. Sometimes caregivers will think the horse is showing signs for colic because he/she will not get up. It usually presents with immobility.”

Another major sign is increased digital pulses in the feet. The veterinarian will often hoof test the horse and find sensitivity in the toe with hoof testers (depending on how severe it is). Shifting lameness is often seen, where the horse shifts from one front foot to the other front foot, and back and forth.

If a horse founders in all four feet, which is usually seen in more severe cases like colitis, they will lean their hind end against the wall, almost trying to dog-sit against the wall because they are trying to get the pressure off their hind feet, but their front feet are also sore. Horses find ways to compensate and relieve pain.

Changes in the feet will develop in either severely acute or chronic cases. In chronic laminitis cases, the horse will develop rings in the hoof, which can only be seen over a long period of time. Rings can also develop with nutritional deficiencies and other causes, but one can see a difference in rings caused by laminitis. Called “divergent rings”, the laminitic rings tend to separate towards the heel, so there is a bigger space between the rings at the heel than there is at the toe.

With severely acute cases, when the hoof sinks, a shelf or indentation may become visible on the coronary band, but that usually will not be seen right away.

How is Laminitis Diagnosed?

How quickly laminitis develops depends on the cause and how quickly the owner/veterinarian takes steps to slow the progression will depend on the treatment steps. Metabolic causes tend to be more insidious in onset. Colitis cases can progress in a matter of 24 hours to rotated or sunken if severe.

At Palm Beach Equine Clinic, the advanced imaging capabilities are extremely helpful in diagnosing and tracking the progress of laminitic changes. The veterinarian can take side view x-rays of the feet that show the shadow of the lamina. In these images, the veterinarian is able to see where the bone sits and if there is any rotation present. In some cases, the veterinarian may also take MRI images of the foot to track any changes.

“We measure angles and see what degree of rotation is present, and then we can track that over time to find out if a horse has stabilized or is still actively rotating,” Dr. Miles explained. “It usually takes a few days for rotation to occur from the onset of pain, so we take baseline radiographs because we want to see the deviation from the normal radiographs on day one as the disease progresses. We take another set of images a week after that to see if it has stopped rotating. We will take a set every week until we know that it is stable.”

This horse had severe rotation of his pedal bone through the sole of the hoof, very close to the ground. This is a chronic case with an acute episode that triggered the rapid rotation.

What is the Treatment?

In acute cases, the horse will have all feet iced for at least the first 48 hours to decrease inflammation. Dr. Miles noted that icing is only really useful in acute cases. In the chronic cases that have been happening over time, the veterinarian would want to increase the blood flow to the foot, and icing is counterproductive to that.

Other treatments include administering Acepromazine, which decreases anxiety in horses and dilates the blood vessels, which increases the blood flow to the foot. A similar drug called Pentoxifylline also increases blood flow to the feet.

Horses are generally put on Phenylbutazone (Bute) for pain management and anti-inflammatory effects. In some acute cases, the horse will also be given DMSO, which binds to any free radicals or bi-products of inflammation that are circulating in the body that can cause more damage, and assists to excrete the bi-products in the urine.

The next step is to elevate the heel. PBEC has created its own frog support pads for the temporary acute stages that seem to be very successful in relieving some of the pain. When the foot is more stable and has stopped actively rotating, the horse will then receive more advanced corrective farriery for long-term foot support.

“I think the thing about laminitis is that it is very variable and it is a day-by-day process,” Dr. Miles stated. “There is no prediction, unfortunately, on how it plays out. People always want to know how bad it is, and if the horse is going to be able to perform again, and the fact is we do not know until that time comes. It is one of those horrible diseases. We have had some weird cases this year, some really tragic looking ones, that have come back, and other ones that did not look that bad that didn’t make it. My best advice is to call the vet as soon as any lameness or discomfort is recognized. Early intervention is the best option because the condition can deteriorate so quickly. The earlier the intervention, the better off the horse will be.”

Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides experience, knowledge, availability, and the very best care for its clients. Make Palm Beach Equine Clinic a part of your team!

Article courtesy of Jump Media

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!

Early Response to Equine Joint Disease Improves Career Longevity

Wellington, FL – At Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) in Wellington, FL, the team of three Board-Certified surgeons are all experts in minimally invasive surgical techniques, aiming to reduce joint disease, resolve lameness, and improve the longevity of sport horse careers.

Arthroscopy (or arthroscopic surgery) is a minimally invasive surgical technique that can be performed on an injured joint or synovial structure to accurately explore and treat pathology. The surgery generally involves two very small (8mm) keyhole incisions. The first incision is where the surgeon will insert the arthroscope, which is an instrument with a small surgical grade camera installed that allows a complete, clear view of the interior joint surface. The second small incision is created to insert the surgical instrument to perform the procedure.

Arthroscopy is used to treat a broad range of injuries in the joint. Chip fracture removal is a procedure that is particularly commonly in both young Warmbloods with developmental disease and racehorses working at high speeds. A small chip fracture is something that can cause persistent irritation in the joint, as well as arthritis, if left untreated and is best removed immediately so that no further damage is created. The surgeon can easily go into the joint, remove the chip, and clean up the cartilage underneath. Most horses heal quickly and return to their normal athletic activity.

Board-Certified Surgeon Dr. Weston Davis performs many arthroscopic surgeries at PBEC alongside fellow surgeons Dr. Robert Brusie and Dr. Jorge Gomez.

“In many horses, we consider arthroscopy as a prophylactic measure, intervening after injury, but before the development of a generalized degenerative arthritic cycle ensues,” Dr. Davis stated. “Arthroscopy is definitely something that you want to do early in the game if you feel like the horse has joint disease, or a chip, or cartilage disease, or an undefined injury that is not responding appropriately to medical therapy. Arthroscopy can be curative for some of these horses. But if you do not intervene early on in the course of the disease and there is already advanced arthritis, then you have missed your window.

“Arthroscopy is a preferred treatment measure because it is so minimally invasive that most of those horses get right back to sport,” Dr. Davis continued. “In a normal scenario, we thoroughly explore the joint with the arthroscopic camera, we remove a chip or repair a lesion, and the horse is never lame after surgery. Because of the small incisions, there is minimal aftercare and horses are often back to work quickly.”

Other common indications for arthroscopic surgery are meniscal disease in the stifle, subchondral cystic lesions, primary cartilage lesions, and debridement of damaged tendinous/ligamentous tissue (such as deep digital flexor tendon tears in the navicular bursa). The surgeons at PBEC can perform arthroscopy on virtually any joint in the horse. Anything from the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) of the head to the navicular bursa within the hoof capsule can be explored and treated with this minimally invasive approach.

Almost all arthroscopies are performed under general anesthesia with the horse on its back. New renovations at Palm Beach Equine Clinic include a set of stocks of adjustable height adjacent to a surgeon’s pit, allowing the surgeons to have eye-level access to the joint they are working on, enabling many new procedures on the legs of standing horses.

Minimally invasive surgery allows for a simple and quick recovery for the horse. The traditional horse would be on stall rest with a bandage on until the sutures come out at two weeks, and then start doing some light hand walking and physical therapy. Barring severe damage in the joint or associated tendon/ligament disruption, most cases will undergo a six-week rest and rehabilitation protocol, then return to normal work.

As always, the advanced diagnostic imaging at PBEC permits the surgeons to get a complete evaluation of an injury involving a joint to ensure the best possible outcome. Depending on the injury type, digital radiographs, ultrasound, MRI, and Nuclear Scintigraphy, or a combination thereof, may be used for pre-operative diagnosis and planning. Ultrasound and digital radiography are available for intra-operative use. Intra-operative CT scanning will also be available in the future with the new additions at Palm Beach Equine.

“When you are inside the joint with an arthroscopic camera, you have the most complete picture of the surface and health of that joint,” Dr. Davis noted.

Equine Diarrhea: Causes, Treatments, and Complications

Wellington, FL – Diarrhea can be a common problem for horse owners, but how do we know when it is serious? What are some of the causes? How do we treat severe cases and what are the complications to watch for? Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Peter Heidmann of Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL, has the answers to these questions and more.

Diarrhea, defined as loose stools, or excessive and overly-frequent defecation, occurs when the intestine does not complete absorption of electrolytes and water. Simple changes in feed, exposure to lush grass, or a bite of moldy hay can cause brief irritation of the bowel, giving a horse diarrhea for a day or two, but anything more than that could be from a variety of more serious causes. Bacteria, viruses, and toxins are all factors that can damage the lining of the bowel and lead to diarrhea and other complications.

Causes

The organisms that cause diarrhea are mostly bacteria –Salmonella and Clostridium difficile are among the most common. Clostridium difficile is associated with antibiotic use in both people and horses. While antibiotics are useful to kill bad bacteria, they can also kill good bacteria at the same time, upsetting the balance of flora in the body. If a horse goes on antibiotics for any reason, such as a wound or an infection, that can upset the good bacteria in the intestines and cause bad bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile, to grow.

Clostridium difficile can be found naturally in the environment. There are various types of Salmonella, most adapted to birds or to cattle or other livestock, so horses that are around livestock have a higher rate of becoming infected with that particular bacteria. Horses can also carry Salmonella and not have any symptoms, so they can pass it to each other. If the healthy flora in the horse’s body is thrown off by even a small change in diet, or something bigger like a colic episode, or antibiotics, then Salmonella can grow up in its place.

Another bacterial cause of diarrhea can be a disease called Potomac Horse Fever. A bacteria called Neorickettsia risticii, which is carried by snails and conveyed by flies like caddis flies, causes Potomac Horse Fever. For this reason, horses that live near rivers or streams can become infected. During warm weather months, caddis flies pick up the bacteria from the streams and can transfer the disease to nearby horses that accidentally eat the flies or larvae. There are hotbeds for Potomac Horse Fever throughout the U.S., including the Potomac basin where it was first described, as well as many parts of the East Coast, and areas of Oregon, northern California, and Montana.

A viral cause of diarrhea commonly seen is Coronavirus. This gastrointestinal virus shreds the intestinal lining and can cause horses to become very sick. The body has to reline the bowel, and it does so quickly, but it takes three to five days, during which the horse may have severe diarrhea and secondary infections.

“Coronavirus was thought for a long time to just be an opportunistic infection and that the virus would take advantage of the horse already being sick, but now it is more and more believed to be the cause of its own type of disease,” Dr. Heidmann stated. “Like all of these diseases, it causes damage to the lining of the bowel and supportive care must be used to help the horse heal. Unlike bacterial infections, however, you cannot directly treat the organism, since there aren’t appropriate drugs to directly treat coronavirus in horses.”

Outside of the infectious causes of diarrhea, there are mechanical causes, such as ingestion of sand, which can be a common problem in locations like South Florida. Sand is irritating to the lining of the bowel and can cause damage from its weight, as well as its abrasiveness. In general, sand is irritating enough that the body cannot retain the fluid that it needs in the intestines. As a result, it will cause secretory diarrhea where too much water is being lost. Clearing the sand usually solves the problem and the bowel is then able to reestablish a healthy lining.

A final cause of diarrhea in horses is toxins. Toxic plants, such as Oleander, can be fatal in large doses, but if ingested in small amounts, can be a severe irritant to the bowel. Other toxins that a horse can ingest in the environment, such as phosphate or insecticides, may also cause diarrhea.

Treatments

The single most important treatment for diarrhea, no matter the cause, is supportive care. Supportive care includes providing intravenous fluids to replace the fluids lost, providing protein in the form of plasma for the protein lost due to lack of absorption, as well as balancing electrolytes.

The next most important step is taking measures to either reestablish good flora within the gut or to remove the bad bacteria. In the past, a powdered charcoal was used, which is great for absorbing bacteria, but does not absorb the water. A gastrointestinal health supplement called BioSponge® came on the market in the early 2000s through the company Platinum Performance. The product is a purified clay powder that binds the toxins, and also binds the water, so that the horse loses fewer fluids in their diarrhea.

While absorbing the bad bacteria and toxins is important, also providing good bacteria in the form of probiotics can be very helpful.

“Probiotics are very variable in their efficacy, but there are some bacteria that are known to be associated with gut health,” Dr. Heidmann noted. “The good bacteria in people, and in horses, that has the most data for being helpful is Saccharomyces Boulardii. Old-fashioned brewers yeast is also Saccharomyces, but it is a different species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

“One of the best ways to reestablish healthy flora is Transfaunation, which is taking a healthy horses manure, filtering it, and then tubing it into the sick horse,” Dr. Heidmann added. “That is one of the most dramatic treatments out there. It provides the good ‘bugs’ that the horse is losing through the diarrhea. You will often see foals eating their mother’s manure. It is an instinctual habit to get the good bugs into their stomach. We only do that in the sickest of cases. Whatever the route, it makes a big difference to provide the good bugs because that creates the environment for the gut to heal.”

While some antibiotics are warranted in the right situation, Dr. Heidmann pointed out that they are not necessary as often as people would think.

“With people or dogs, if we get Salmonella or some other intestinal infection, we almost always go on antibiotics, but because antibiotics are the cause of many cases of colitis in horses, in general that is not the best strategy,” Dr. Heidmann stated. “There are a couple of exceptions. Clostridium difficile does respond to antibiotics, metronidazole being the most common one. For Potomac Horse Fever, Tetracycline broad spectrum antibiotics are the best.”

Biosecurity measures should also be taken to protect healthy horses from an infectious barn-mate. Dr. Heidmann recommends complete isolation of the sick horse while it is ill, and for a minimum of two full weeks after the infection has been clinically resolved. This includes no horse-to-horse contact, as well as no shared use of wheelbarrows, pitchforks, etc.

Molecular and DNA testing can be done to make sure that the horse is infection-free, however, Dr. Heidmann warns that testing can be problematic.

“There is a very high number of false negatives, meaning there is truly some infection there, but the lab cannot find it,” Dr. Heidmann stated. “There can be times when the horse is shedding bugs, but the tests do not pick it up. The state-of-the-art standard of care is a DNA test called ‘PCR’, and yet you still have to do multiple tests to get a positive test and get a diagnosis. Still, the best way to be safe is to continue testing until you are sure.”

Complications

Dr. Heidmann warned of common complications in severe diarrhea cases, laminitis being highest on the list. With the sickest of horses, it is unfortunately not uncommon for the veterinarian to get the gut fixed over three to five days, and then find that the feet have started to become very inflamed due to toxins in the bloodstream. If the horse loses the lining of its intestine, then the good and bad bacteria that are supposed to be contained in the intestine can “leak” out into the bloodstream and are free in the abdomen. Those bacteria are then dying either from an attack by the immune system or antibiotics, and they release endotoxins into the bloodstream, which along with other inflammatory products, can cause laminitis.

Another serious complication is blood clotting. The sick horse may become very low on blood protein when the bowel lining is damaged, which can cause clotting abnormalities. The horse may have difficulty clotting or they may become prone to abnormal increases in clotting. The horse might seem better, and then it will develop a clot somewhere in the body. It can be anywhere, but it is most often in the intestine itself, which is usually fatal. In general, horses like this are treated with supplemental protein in the form of plasma. In some cases, the veterinarian will also provide anticoagulant medications.

Although some cases of diarrhea are brief and easily resolved, Dr. Heidmann reminds that serious cases can go downhill fast, and it is important to refer to an expert.

“The biggest sign of a problem is duration,” Dr. Heidmann concluded. “If it is one day, it could be that they had a bite of bad food or something simple. If there are fevers or lethargy, those are instant warning signs. If it lasts for days, or if they go off their feed, those are instant warning signs. That is when you should call your veterinarian right away, especially because as they start to go downhill, these complications really amplify. The worst cases are the ones that have been smoldering for a day or two.”

Dr. Heidmann and the veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic are always available and encourage owners to contact the clinic at the first sign of a problem.

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Palm Beach Equine Clinic
  • Phone
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    Wellington, FL, 33414