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Category: Medical

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.

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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Removing the “Guess” from Lameness Evaluations

A Look at Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Advanced Imaging Technology

Dr. Sarah Puchalski reviewing a CT scan at PBEC.
Photo by Jump Media

Palm Beach Equine Clinic takes pride in being a world-class facility for the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of some of the industry’s most valued sport horses, as well as backyard companions. A vital area of the Equine Hospital that helps veterinarians to diagnose subtle or acute lameness is the Advanced Imaging Department.

Producing thousands of scans a year across all modalities, the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Imaging Department offers an on-staff, board-certified radiologist, and equipment that elevates the effectiveness of lameness diagnostics. Lameness is no longer a guessing game as PBEC veterinarians have an arsenal of imaging technologies to capture inside the horse.

Tour the PBEC Imaging Department:


Palm Beach Equine Clinic bone scan nuclear scintigraphy diagnostic imaging

Nuclear Scintigraphy (Bone Scan)

Nuclear scintigraphy begins with the injection of a radioactive isotope called Technetium 99 that is bound to a phosphate analogue. The isotope – phosphate molecule attaches to the mineral matrix of the bone in areas where bone is active. A gamma camera is then used to capture images of the skeletal anatomy. Points that “light up” on the image indicate increased metabolic activity as a possible site of injury.

Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

The standing MRI produces highly detailed, cross-sectional images of bone and soft tissue in multiple different planes to fully image a desired region. The standing MRI requires sedation (not anesthesia) and is best used to further define a specific area that has already been pinpointed as the origin of lameness.

Computed Tomography (CT)

Similar to its use in humans, CT allows veterinarians the unique opportunity to conveniently explore areas of a horse’s body that were previously inaccessible. The machine produces 360 degree images of a horse’s neck, spine, and head and can be conducted while a horse is standing and under only light sedation.

Endoscopy

An endoscope is an instrument that allows veterinarians to look inside the body by being inserted through a natural opening or incision. A tiny camera on the instrument allows an in-depth view of internal structures such as the upper and lower respiratory track, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, as well as the cervix and uterus of mares.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Sport Horse Medicine Radiography

Digital Radiography

Used routinely, radiographs are traditional x-rays that are made available within seconds for digital viewing and evaluation.

Ultrasonography

An ultrasound machine generates high-frequency sound waves, which echo an image back to the machine where bone appears white, fluid appears black, and all other structures are on a grayscale. An ultrasound is non-invasive, usually does not require sedation, does not use radiation or require injecting radioactive isotopes, and provides real-time images.


“These tools can give a definitive diagnosis, and that saves time and money in the long run,” said board-certified radiologist Dr. Sarah Puchalski. “For example, if a horse goes lame and it gets seen and treated empirically, which is a diagnosis based on likely problems through common diagnostic procedures, it either stays sound or it becomes lame again or even non-functional in three to six months. This method sets back the commencement of the appropriate therapy.

“What these modalities do is allow the horse to be treated early and correctly,” continued Dr. Puchalski. “Otherwise, you may not be treating the correct issue, and the horse could end up lame again very soon.”

Brittany Riddle, manager of PBEC’s Nuclear Scintigraphy Department, is fascinated by the structure of the horse’s body and helps to produce hundreds of bone scans per year.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in the anatomy of horses,” said Riddle, who spends her workday keeping patients comfortable and calm while operating a gamma ray camera housed in its own suite at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. “The horses are under light sedation for standing scans and these usually take from one to four hours depending on the type of scan. Usually during the winter competition season, we have anywhere from two to three horses being scanned daily.

“The variety of patients we treat is always interesting,” continued Riddle. “We see patients from all aspects of the industry. From racehorses to polo ponies, western performance, dressage, top show jumpers and hunters.”

According to Palm Beach Equine Clinic President Dr. Scott Swerdlin, having the latest in diagnostic capabilities drives the success of the Clinic.

“Many years ago, we committed to establishing Palm Beach Equine Clinic as an all-inclusive hospital and making it the most advanced referral center in the country,” said Dr. Swerdlin. “By investing in the very best personnel and equipment, we are able to provide the very best care we can for our patients.”

A Laser That’s Therapeutic… and REGENERATIVE

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is the only equine veterinarian based in Wellington, FL, with the powerful SmartRLT Laser.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Natalia Novoa goes far beyond standard treatment by utilizing Regenerative Laser Therapy.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Natalia Novoa goes far beyond standard treatment by utilizing Regenerative Laser Therapy.

Dr. Natalia Novoa utilizes this revolutionary sport horse medicine tool to treat a variety of injuries and wounds with clinically documented success. The SmartRLT laser is a portable Class IV laser, the most potent and dynamic on the market, as an essential non-invasive therapy for use in the barn and at horseshows. Not only is Dr. Novoa’s regenerative laser extremely effective in treating injuries that were previously considered career-ending, but it is also especially beneficial for enhancing body condition and performance of the equine athlete. 

Clinical and scientific results of the SmartRLT include:


  • Repair of ligament and tendon lesions
  • Reduces scar tissue within and around injuries
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Increases collagen production
  • Increases blood circulation to bring nutrients to the site
  • Realigns muscle fibers for stronger healing
  • Provides analgesia (reduces pain)
  • Enhances tissue oxygenation
  • Increases cell proliferation (generates more cellular energy)

Regenerative Laser Therapy has successfully treated injuries to structures such as:


  • Cartilage/bone/joints
    • Neck and poll, stifles, temporo mandibular joint (TMJ), hocks, fetlocks, and coffin joint
  • Sore feet and laminitis
  • Sore muscles (especially back and gluteal)
  • Suspensory ligaments and branches
  • Superficial flexor tendons
  • Deep digital flexor tendon and its insertion inside the hoof
  • Inferior and superior check ligaments
  • Collateral ligaments
  • Summer sores and scratches
  • Scar tissue
  • Open wounds and punctures
  • Sub-dermal infections
  • Post-operative incisions
  • Sacroiliac joint and kissing spine
Left front suspensory ligament medial branch core lesion before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.
Left front suspensory ligament medial branch core lesion before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.
Deep digital flexor tendon before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.
Deep digital flexor tendon before and after regenerative laser therapy. Photo courtesy of SOUND.

Regenerative Laser Therapy Case Study: Lameness

Patient Condition Grand Prix level show jumper with left front lameness.
Evaluation Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) showed intra-osseous fluid accumulation in the left front third metacarpal condyle.
Treatment 20 sessions of Dr. Novoa’s SmartRLT.
Result Fluid in the third metacarpal condyle was resolved.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Regenerative Laser Therapy Case Study: Lameness.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Regenerative Laser Therapy Case Study: Lameness.

Custom Treatment for Your Unique Horse


Dr. Novoa’s SmartRLT is a pioneering technology that has evidence-based settings and treatment protocols to optimize the effectiveness for each unique patient. Treatments are customized for the specific structure, acute or chronic conditions, deep to superficial and skin pigmentation to reach the best outcomes.

Regenerative Laser Therapy provides a warm, soothing sensation and does not require sedation. Treatments can be performed at the barn or horseshow. Be sure to share your competition schedule with your veterinarian so treatments can be done within a safe and legal timeframe.  

General Protocols for Regenerative Laser Treatments

Pre and Post Performance: 1-3 sessions
Acute Conditions: 6-10 sessions for the first two weeks
Chronic Conditions: 2-3 sessions per week for approximately 10 weeks

Laser Therapy 101


Laser therapy is beams of electromagnetic energy that interact chemically and biologically with the targeted tissue or injury. This creates photobiomodulation, allowing maximum penetration of tissue structures. Laser therapy releases endorphins while increasing cellular activity, blood flow and enhancing tissue oxygenation. Essentially, it enhances the body’s natural healing mechanisms and expedites the restorative process.

Regenerative Laser Therapy goes far beyond standard lasers.

Regenerative Laser Therapy releases greater energy per pulse to create a photomechanical effect at the cellular level. It can be directed to the target injury or lesion to regenerate, revitalize, remodel, repair and realign tissue. Therefore, it is essential for equine sports medicine, lameness, rehabilitation and optimizing performance.  

Regenerative Laser Therapy may only be administered by a veterinarian. Dr. Novoa is the only veterinarian based full-time in South Florida offering the SmartRLT treatments.

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse

Marilyn Connor Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian

Dr. Marilyn Connor of Palm Beach Equine Clinic Discusses Balancing Your Horse’s Energy Sources for Performance

The modern equine athlete is asked to train and compete at far more demanding levels than horses in nature. Providing your horse with a diet that matches their metabolic needs, activity level, and training demands is key to success. To fuel our sport horses, we must first understand their nutrition and energy needs and give them the adequate support to succeed.

Physical Demands

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Exercise

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is a major sponsor and partner of equestrian competitions across disciplines

Glucose is stored in the liver and muscle cells as Glycogen, or a complex carbohydrate. Glycogen is broken down into glucose to meet metabolic energy requirements and provides energy for short to medium duration physical activity. Additionally, fat can be broken down and converted into glucose through a longer and more complex process.

Exercise can be characterized into two general categories: anaerobic and aerobic. Anaerobic exercise is characterized by short bursts of maximal effort activity, while aerobic exercise includes low to moderate intensity activity that lasts for a longer duration.

Both anaerobic and aerobic exercise utilize glucose as the primary source of fuel. Anaerobic and aerobic exercise differ in their secondary source of energy utilized once circulating glucose is depleted. Anaerobic exercise utilizes glycogen stores after glucose is depleted, while aerobic exercise is fueled by fat sources.

No equestrian sport is entirely anaerobic or aerobic. Most disciplines will have periods that require anaerobic and aerobic energy metabolism. Racehorses and western performance horses work at high intensity, fast speeds for short periods of time, requiring the body to utilize anerobic metabolism to produce energy. Show jumping and polo horses primarily use aerobic exercise yet will switch to anaerobic metabolism to keep up with energy demands of their sport. Eventing and endurance racing horses rely primarily on aerobic metabolism to support their energy needs over long periods of activity.

To support your horse during any type of sport, they must have a balanced nutrition program that sets them up for success.

Forage First

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse Palm Beach Equine Clinic forage first

“Providing high quality forage is always my top focus for any nutrition program, regardless of the horse’s breed, age, gender, metabolic needs or athletic activity,” says Dr. Connor.

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse Palm Beach Equine Clinic grain

Horses are herbivores and evolved to survive by grazing on a steady supply of fresh grasses and plants. Research conducted on horses in nature shows that the average wild horse will spend 15 to 17 hours per day grazing and will travel 20 to 30 miles per day in their search for adequate food and water sources. To accommodate for the lifestyle of the modern sport horse, owners must provide high quality forage sources.

Fresh grass contains an optimal blend of key nutrients including protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and fatty acids. Once grass is cut, dried and baled as hay, the nutritional benefits begin decreasing. A week after cutting, hay loses about 60% of its vitamin A, E, and Omega 3 fatty acid content. As a general rule, horses should consume 1 to 1.5% of their body weight in hay or forage per day, with some high performing equine athletes requiring 2 to 2.5% to meet their energy needs.

When hay and forage alone are not enough to support the intense metabolic needs of the equine athlete, grain, and concentrated feed become an important part of the nutritional plan.

Building Blocks of Energy Sources

Feeding your horse with the appropriate mixture of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat is essential for fueling athletic performance.

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Dr. Connor recommends the Platinum Performance Wellness and Performance Formula supplement which is available through the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Pharmacy.
Dr. Connor recommends the Platinum Performance Wellness and Performance Formula supplement which is available through the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Pharmacy.

A horse whose training requires a high level of aerobic exercise, such as a dressage horse, should receive an adequate amount of fat and carbohydrates in their diet to fuel them through longer duration training sessions by providing extended, long-lasting energy sources. Racing and barrel horses, utilizing anaerobic exercise, require a higher percentage of carbohydrates in their diets to support them through maximal effort exercise for shorter periods of time.

Carbohydrates are sourced from forage, grains, and concentrated feeds. Forage sources provide a complex source of fibrous carbohydrates that require more time for the body to digest. Concentrated feeds and grains contain starchy carbohydrates that are easily digested and quickly converted into energy to fuel a horse through intense training. A well-balanced concentrated feed will also have an appropriate blend of fat, protein, and trace minerals.

Protein is an important part of the equine diet and is found in fresh grass, dried forage, and concentrated feeds in varying amounts. Protein is made of amino acids, which are the building blocks for growth, development, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. The modern equine athlete requires a substantial amount of dietary protein to support muscle growth and ongoing tissue repair.

Fat is a key component in most equine concentrated feeds and may be supplemented by adding flax seeds, flax oil, rice bran, and corn oil. These fat sources will provide slow burning calories for sustained energy release. Fat can be especially useful for supplementing a horse’s diet when they are a “hard keeper” or if they have an underlying metabolic condition that requires dietary carbohydrates to be limited.

It is important to remember that not all fats are created equal; as some fat sources can decrease or increase inflammation in the body. Flax seed and flax seed oil are rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids and can be an excellent source of energy. Corn oil is commonly used to add calories and fat; however, it is a less desirable supplement due to its higher percentage of omega 6 fatty acids, which contribute to inflammation. Concentrated feeds will have varying levels of added fats depending on the type of horse it is designed to feed.

Balancing Your Horse’s Energy Sources for Performance

Whatever equestrian discipline is your passion, your horse will need to be fueled by a balanced nutritional plan.

Understanding Energy Support for the Performance Horse Palm Beach Equine Clinic polo

“Feeding instructions provided on grains and concentrated feed products are designed by nutritional companies as guidelines; they are not rules and should be adjusted based on total sources of nutrition,” said Dr. Connor.

Establishing the proper balance of forage, starchy carbohydrates, fat sources, vitamins, and minerals will be different for each unique horse and the demands placed upon them.

Understanding the nutritional demands of your horse can be very simple or very intricate, depending on your unique equine athlete. When designing a feeding program, it is important take into consideration your horse’s athletic discipline, performance level, metabolic needs, stage of life, and any underlying medical conditions. Furthermore, your horse’s nutritional needs will vary over time and as they age, so it is important to periodically assess your horse’s body condition and consult with a knowledgeable veterinarian.

Speak with Dr. Marilyn Connor of Palm Beach Equine Clinic about your horse’s unique nutritional needs to ensure your horse is fully supported and on track to reach your competitive goals.

Schedule a Nutritional Consultation with Dr. Connor

Fill out the form below or call 561-793-1599 to get started.

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Electrolytes Explained

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler Discusses the Role of Electrolytes in Performance

Intense training and hot climates can seriously impact any athlete’s hydration and electrolyte levels. Replenishing our equine athlete’s electrolyte levels can support them through training and recovery. A balanced electrolyte supplement may be one of your most valuable and understated tools to keep in your competition arsenal.

It’s Electric!

Electrolytes are chemicals that when dissolved in a polar solvent, such as water, form electrically charged particles called ions. The body of an average 1,000-pound horse consists of 65 percent water, making it the perfect environment for the electrolyte to perform its physiologic duties. Some of the physiologic functions electrolytes play a part in include but are not limited to:

  • temperature control and fluid transport across cell membranes
  • muscle and heart contraction
  • respiration and digestion
  • ion transport and signal transduction
  • renal and neurological function
  • thought and memory processes
  • energy production and glucose metabolism
  • gathering information from all the senses and transporting those messages to the brain and muscles, enabling everyday function and the innate fight or flight responses of the horse
Intense training and hot climates can seriously impact any athlete’s hydration and electrolyte levels. Photo by Jump Media

Why are Electrolytes Important?

The horse’s body is a complex and carefully balanced system comprised of different types of cells, tissues and fluids that continuously direct an array of electrical impulses. The fuel for this fundamental life process lies within the electrolyte. When you think of a happy, healthy horse, he is one who is eating, drinking and passing manure appropriately. Electrolytes are essential to achieve and maintain this. The main electrolytes found in the horse’s body are sodium (Na), chloride (Cl), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42) and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3).

One of the main functions of electrolytes is to regulate nerve and muscle function by transmitting electrical impulses. Optimal muscle health and appropriate neuron communication increase the performance potential of all horses.

Replenishing our equine athlete’s electrolyte levels can support them through training and recovery.
Photo by Jump Media

With all the details of an electrolyte in mind, the key to maintaining a horse’s health and performance is achieving a balance. When there are imbalances, you run into trouble. Electrolytes are naturally excreted through sweating, feces and urine. However, if horses consistently excrete a high amount of electrolytes, there may be impacts on their health and performance.

Signs that a horse may be deficient in electrolytes include:

  • poor performance and depression
  • dull coat and sunken eyes
  • eating dirt or other horses’ feces
  • tying up
  • weight loss or ulcers

Common causes of an electrolyte imbalance include:

  • dehydration
  • diarrhea
  • excessive sweating and strenuous exercise
  • insufficient consumption of bio-available minerals

With a proper, high-quality nutrition program, the majority of horses are able to replenish their routine electrolyte losses. However, this does not always hold true for the performance horse that has a more strenuous training schedule. Electrolytes are not easily replaced by diet alone and made readily accessible for the body to utilize as the performance horse’s training schedule demands. This is where electrolyte supplementation plays an imperative role.

Dr. Hustler’s recommended electrolyte supplement, Summer Games Electrolyte by Kentucky Performance Products, is available through the Palm Beach Equine Clinic Pharmacy.
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Supplementing Electrolytes

Horses are creatures of habit and thrive on consistency. Ideally, when supplementing electrolytes, you should give the same amount of powder or paste orally on a daily basis. This enables the horse to utilize what it needs to maintain homeostasis, and what is not needed will naturally be excreted. Electrolytes should never be “loaded,” as you may create an excessive imbalance and will inadvertently create an osmotic pull of water in the body to “go the wrong way,” causing dehydration. This principle of the osmotic pulling of fluids is why it is imperative to always give electrolytes with water and provide your horse with free-choice water.

Electrolyte supplements are an easy and cost-effective way to provide balance within the body. When choosing a supplement, select one that contains the essential electrolytes, and has low sugar content. Additionally, providing a free-choice salt block allows horses to instinctively re-balance their sodium and chloride levels.

The veterinarians of Palm Beach Equine Clinic recommend the Summer Games Electrolytes by Kentucky Performance Products, which can be purchased directly from the Palm Beach Equine Clinic pharmacy in Wellington, FL. The value and impact electrolytes have on your horse’s health and potential for peak performance are huge – and often overlooked – details that horse owners can’t afford to miss.

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler.
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

About Dr. Hustler

Dr. Meredith Mitchell Hustler, of Ocean Grove, NJ, has grown up in the hunter/jumper community with a lifelong love for horses and equestrian sport. Dr. Hustler completed her undergraduate degree in Equine Science at Centenary University in Hackettstown, NJ. She then pursued her dream of becoming a veterinarian and graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. During her clinical years Colorado State University, she became acupuncture certified in small animal, exotics and large animals. Her main interests in veterinary medicine are sports medicine, lameness, rehabilitation, acupuncture and alternative therapies. Outside of Palm Beach Equine Clinic she enjoys spending time with her husband, family, friends, and her three dogs.

When the Bone Breaks

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is Changing the Prognosis for Condylar Fracture Injuries

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is changing the prognosis for condylar fracture injuries in race and sport horses. Advances in diagnostic imaging, surgical skillset, and the facilities necessary to quickly diagnose, treat, repair, and rehabilitate horses with condylar fractures have improved dramatically in recent years.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is changing the prognosis for condylar fracture injuries among sport horses.
Photo by Jump Media

Most commonly seen in Thoroughbred racehorses and polo ponies, a condylar fracture was once considered a career-ending injury. Today, however, many horses fully recover and return to competing in their respective disciplines.

What is a Condylar Fracture?

A condylar fracture is a repetitive strain injury that results in a fracture to the cannon bone above the fetlock due to large loads transmitted during high-speed exercise.

A condylar fracture is a repetitive concussive injury that results in a fracture to the cannon bone above the fetlock due to large loads transmitted over the cannon bone during high-speed exercise. On a radiograph, a condylar fracture appears as a crack that goes laterally up the cannon from the fetlock joint and out the side of the bone, essentially breaking off a corner of the cannon bone, sometimes up to six inches long.

“A condylar fracture is a disease of speed,” said Dr. Robert Brusie, a surgeon at Palm Beach Equine Clinic who estimates that he repairs between 30 and 50 condylar fractures per year. “A fracture to the left lateral forelimb is most common in racehorses as they turn around the track on a weakened bone and increased loading.”

Scan showing the screws inserted during surgery (right). This patient, a Thoroughbred racehorse, walked away from surgery comfortably and is recovering well.

Condylar fractures are further categorized into incomplete and non-displaced (the bone fragment hasn’t broken away from the cannon bone and is still in its original position), or complete and displaced (the fragment has moved away from the cannon bone itself and can often be visible under the skin).

Additionally, condylar fractures can occur laterally or medially. According to fellow Palm Beach Equine Clinic surgeon Dr. Weston Davis, most condylar fractures tend to be lateral on the outside condyle (a rounded projection on a bone, usually for articulation with another bone similar to a knuckle or joint).

“Most lateral condylar fractures are successfully repaired,” said Dr. Davis. “Medial condylar fractures tend to be more complicated configurations because they often spiral up the leg. Those require more advanced imaging and more advanced techniques to fix.”

What is the Treatment?

The first step in effectively treating a condylar fracture through surgery is to accurately and quickly identify the problem. Board-certified radiologist Dr. Sarah Puchalski utilizes the advanced imaging services at Palm Beach Equine Clinic to accomplish exactly this.

“Stress remodeling can be detected early and easily on nuclear scintigraphy before the horse goes lame or develops a fracture,” said Dr. Puchalski. “Early diagnosis of stress remodeling allows the horse to be removed from active race training and then return to full function earlier. Early diagnosis of an actual fracture allows for repair while the fracture is small and hopefully non-displaced.”

Surgical lag screws are used to reconnect the fractured condyle with the cannon bone.
Photo by Jump Media

Once the injury is identified as a condylar fracture, Palm Beach Equine Clinic surgeons step in to repair the fracture and start the horse on the road to recovery. Depending on surgeon preference, condylar fracture repairs can be performed with the horse under general anesthesia, or while standing under local anesthesia. During either process, surgical leg screws are used to reconnect the fractured condyle with the cannon bone.

“For a small non-displaced fracture, we would just put in one to two screws across the fracture,” explains Dr. Davis. “The technical term is to do it in ‘lag fashion,’ such that we tighten the screws down heavily and really compress the fracture line. A lot of times the fracture line is no longer visible in x-rays after it is surgically compressed. When you get that degree of compression, the fractures heal very quickly and nicely.”

More complicated fractures, or fractures that are fully displaced, may require additional screws to align the parts of the bone. For the most severe cases of condylar fractures, a locking compression plate with screws is used to stabilize and repair the bone.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic surgeon Dr. Jorge Gomez approaches a non-displaced condylar fracture while the horse is standing, which does not require general anesthesia.

A view of Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s standing surgical suite.

“I will just sedate the horse and block above the site of the fracture,” said Dr. Gomez. “Amazingly, horses tolerate it really well. Our goal is always to have the best result for the horse, trainers, and us as veterinarians.”

According to Dr. Gomez, the recovery time required after a standing condylar fracture repair is only 90 days. This is made even easier thanks to a state-of-the-art standing surgical suite at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. The four-and-a-half-foot recessed area allows doctors to perform surgeries anywhere ventral of the carpus on front legs and hocks on hind legs from a standing position. Horses can forgo general anesthesia for a mild sedative and local nerve blocks, greatly improving surgical recovery.

“A condylar fracture was once considered the death of racehorses, and as time and science progressed, it was considered career-ending,” concluded Dr. Brusie. “Currently, veterinary medical sciences are so advanced that we have had great success with condylar fracture patients returning to full work. Luckily, with today’s advanced rehabilitation services, time, and help from mother nature, many horses can come back from an injury like this.”

Horse Health Reminder: Hydration

Even in the winter months, it is important not to underestimate the heat, humidity, and sun. Palm Beach Equine Clinic stresses the importance of proper hydration and sun protection year-round, especially to Florida-based equestrians and winter season snowbirds.

There are many problems that can arise when temperatures climb, including overheating, dehydration, and colic. When the weather becomes chilly in Florida, horses often quit drinking as much water. This can lead to additional problems such as impaction. Your horse’s hydration is critically important for health and performance

Remember these 5 easy ways to protect your horse from sun and dehydration:

Your horse’s hydration is critically important for health and performance in all climates. Photo by Jump Media

1. During extended periods of turnout, and when competing, horses should always have access to shaded areas. Scheduled rides and extended turnout should take place when the temperatures are lower, usually early mornings or in the evening on hot days, so the horse is not in direct sunlight.

2. The average horse drinks between five and 10 gallons of water per day. Therefore, easy and frequent access to clean, fresh water is a necessity. Pay special attention to increased intake during particularly hot days and plan accordingly.

3. Sodium in a horse’s diet is crucial for maintaining proper hydration. Providing a salt block or supplementing with properly measured electrolytes in a horse’s feed or water can help ensure that sodium requirements are being met and that your horse is drinking a sufficient amount of water.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic stresses the importance of proper hydration and sun protection year-round, especially to Florida-based equestrians and winter season snowbirds.

4. Especially in the extreme summer heat, horse owners should pay attention to the amount of sweat their horse is producing. Anhidrosis, or the inability to sweat normally, can be a common challenge, particularly in hot, humid climates. In addition to lack of sweat, signs of anhidrosis can include increased respiratory rate, elevated temperature, areas of hair loss, or dry and flaky skin. If you notice any of these signs, contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic immediately.

5. Clean water buckets often and always fill with fresh water before leaving the barn. Veterinarians often recommend placing one bucket of fresh water and one bucket of electrolytes. Usually, a horse will balance his electrolytes with the opportunity to drink from one or more of these buckets.

These are just a few of the important issues to be aware of during the temperature change in Florida. Contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic to learn more about precautions that can be taken to keep horses happy and healthy throughout the winter competition season.

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness

Typically, when a horse’s gait feels off or may be lacking usual impulsion, the rider often assumes it to be an issue of lameness associated with the forelimbs or hindlimbs. However, that may not always be the case. Utilizing advanced diagnostic imaging techniques, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is able to accurately pinpoint the specific area that is affecting overall performance. In many cases, the cervical vertebrae are often identified as the cause of lameness, asymmetry, and poor performance.

Vertebral Anatomy

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness. A computed tomography scan showing a normal sagittal view of the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae by Palm Beach Equine Clinic.
A computed tomography scan showing a normal sagittal view of the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

The neck is composed of seven articulating cervical vertebrae running from the head to the thorax, named C1 through C7. The neck allows movement of the head while protecting the spinal cord and providing an avenue for nerves to travel. Impingement on the spinal cord and nerves connected to the cervical vertebrae can exhibit neurologically as ataxia, neck pain, or lameness.

Signs of Lameness Related to the Neck

In a lameness exam, a veterinarian will perform flexion tests and palpate areas of the body looking for decreases in the horse’s range of motion or pain upon flexion. The rider may pick up on subtle lameness issues associated with the neck by feeling a change in the horse’s suppleness or resistance to yielding in a certain direction. Lameness may even present itself as a difference in the horse’s balance, such as being heavier on the forehand, or performance issues such as late lead changes. The tried-and-true “carrot test” can also show if a horse is resistant to flexing their neck.

Identifying Lameness through Diagnostic Imaging

Historically, neck issues related to performance are generally diagnosed through a process of ruling out other areas of the body. Diagnostic imaging can now be the most powerful and effective tool for identifying the cause of lameness related to cervical injury and hereditary malformation.

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness. Computed Tomography (CT) scans have revolutionized the ability to assess the entire neck and can be performed while the horse is standing and under light sedation. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Computed Tomography (CT) scans have revolutionized the ability to assess the entire neck and can be performed while the horse is standing and under light sedation. Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Computed Tomography (CT) scans have revolutionized the ability to assess the entire neck and can be performed while the horse is standing and under light sedation. Computed Tomography images can be rendered into three-dimensional models and sliced in any orientation, allowing the veterinarian to evaluate the vertebrae in great detail that is incomparable to standard radiographs (x-rays). These comprehensive CT scans offer veterinarians a thorough profile so they can accurately diagnose and initiate an effective response.  

A standing CT scanner is the latest addition to Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s arsenal of diagnostic imaging modalities. Currently, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is the only equine hospital in South Florida offering this capability. Compared to other modalities such as MRI or Nuclear Scintigraphy, Computed Tomography offers a valuable return for its rapid acquisition of images. If you suspect there is an issue in your horse’s neck please, contact Becky at Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 to schedule an appointment.

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