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Category: Medical

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Case Study: Ethmoid Hematoma

A horse was recently admitted to Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC), based in Wellington, FL, with symptoms that included bleeding from the nostril. The patient’s referring veterinarian had diagnosed the horse with an ethmoid hematoma, which in layman’s terms is essentially a mass that fills with blood in the nose or sinus cavity.

The patient was placed under the care of PBEC’s board-certified surgeon Dr. Weston Davis and Dr. Michael Myhre. They performed an airway endoscopy to locate and evaluate the hematoma that the referring veterinarian had identified. After confirming the diagnosis, Dr. Davis and Dr. Myhre were eager to ensure that it was the one and only hematoma they were battling.

Computed Tomography

PBEC is one of an elite group of equine veterinary clinics to have a computed tomography (CT) machine in their arsenal of diagnostic imaging equipment. A CT gives veterinarians a unique look at the head, neck, and spine of a horse that they would never be able to accomplish with other imaging modalities. After a CT of the patient’s sinuses, more masses were indeed identified.

Watch the CT scan that spotted the additional masses in progress!

“This was a fairly typical presentation of an ethmoid hematoma, but there were certainly more masses than normal,” said Dr. Myhre. “It’s for this reason that the CT was very useful. If we were not able to obtain the scans that we did, we may have missed the masses that were located deeper in the sinus.”

The cause of an ethmoid hematoma is unknown, but the mass resembles a tumor in appearance and development without being neoplastic. Horses with extensive masses may have reduced airflow and an expanding hematoma can cause pressure necrosis of the surrounding bones, but rarely causes facial distortion. Treatments of the ethmoid hematoma can range from conservative management to surgery. The conservative treatment route includes the injection of formalin – a mixture of formaldehyde gas and water – into the mass using a guarded endoscopic needle. Once injected, the mass typically regresses rapidly, but recurrence is common. For some cases, surgical excision is achieved via a frontonasal bone flap procedure.

The Approach

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Case Study: Ethmoid Hematoma
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Case Study: Ethmoid Hematoma

Due to the location and advances nature of the masses in this case, injection was not an option and the CT imaging was used to plan a surgical approach. “After sedation and a local block, we went into the sinus through a flap approach where we took a section of bone, cut it into a flap, and moved it back so we could go into the sinuses through a nice window,” said Dr. Myhre. “We removed a mass four centimeters in diameter as well as several smaller masses two to three centimeters in diameter, then flushed the area and closed.”

According to Dr. Myhre the advantages of a standing procedure included fewer risks from bleeding and fewer risks of recovering from anesthesia.

Post-surgery, the bone flap will require several weeks to heal, but the skin itself healed within one to two weeks, which is when the horse was cleared to return to normal activity.


Internal Medicine: What’s it all about?

Palm Beach Equine Clinic President Dr. Scott Swerdlin often says, “If you want to attract equine veterinary specialists, you have to have impressive facilities and technology in place.” Palm Beach Equine Clinic is one of the few veterinary clinics in the country to offer clients the talents of board-certified specialists in nearly every branch of equine veterinary medicine. One such specialist is Peter Heidmann, DVM, DACVIM, a graduate of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, who joined Palm Beach Equine Clinic in 2016.

Dr. Peter Heidmann Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian
Dr. Peter Heidmann, DVM, MPH

Dr. Heidmann specializes in the treatment of internal medicine cases at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

What attracted him? The facilities! In the heart of South Florida’s horse country and at the center of the busiest winter competition schedule in the world, Palm Beach Equine Clinic boasts an internal medicine and infectious disease center at its Wellington-based clinic.

The crown jewel of the center is the ability to stop airborne disease dead in its tracks with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved isolation stalls that completely enclose horses in their own environment with individual filtered airflow systems that do not reach other horses. On top of secure isolation and individual airflow systems in their internal medicine facilities, Palm Beach Equine Clinic also constructed areas for each stall where medications are prepared, equipment is stored, and dirty bedding is handled.

To further mitigate risk, veterinarians, technicians, and staff take every available precaution, including foot baths before entering the stalls and wearing personal protective equipment such as Tyvek suits, gowns, and face masks to provide multiple layers of protection against spreading disease. In some cases, a specific team of doctor, technician, and intern is assigned to a patient and won’t touch another horse for the duration of the treatment.

Accurately Diagnosing Internal Medicine Cases

Diagnostics is not a guessing game at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. With advanced imaging equipment, including a computed tomography (CT) machine, standing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear scintigraphy camera (bone scan), as well as radiography (x-ray) and ultrasonography capabilities, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is armed and ready to quickly and accurately diagnose internal medicine cases.

Dr. Heidmann refers to the facilities and his work at Palm Beach Equine Clinic as a luxury, saying, “I’ve managed many cases in various facilities going all the way back through internship, fellowship, and residency, but this is as nice as any place I have ever worked. It makes the risk to the horses so much lower, but also removes the anxiety for myself because I’m able to look a client in the eye and tell them that there is no risk. I don’t have a concern about disease spreading from one patient to another because at Palm Beach Equine Clinic we have the tools that we need.”

Understanding Internal Medicine

To understand how diagnostic tools are most effective, one must understand what exactly internal medicine is. In an effort to define internal medicine, Dr. Heidmann noted, “What you’ll see on the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) website is an emphasis on organ systems and organ system problems – respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disease, and neurologic disease being three of the most prevalent.

“What it really entails is a way of analyzing problems specific to the organ systems,” he continued. “It can be all over the map, and that’s part of what makes the specialty so fun and interesting.”

The most common internal medicine cases can be split into three categories:

  • gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • neurological system issues
  • respiratory diseases.

Gastro-Intestinal Problems in Horses

“When it comes to GI issues, I usually see horses in two categories,” said Dr. Heidmann. “Number one are the horses that may need to go to colic surgery and the horses that just had colic surgery. The other is horses with intestinal infections, often colitis in which they have heavy diarrhea.”

According to Dr. Heidmann, all of the treatments for colitis tend to boil down to the same thing: replacing their ongoing losses and letting the intestine heal itself. It doesn’t matter if it’s colostrum, salmonella, Potomac Horse Fever, or any other kind of infection.

Equine Neurologic System

The nervous system in a horse is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and several different kinds of nerves that are found throughout the body. These create complex circuits through which animals experience and respond to sensations. Unfortunately, many different types of diseases can affect the nervous system, including birth defects, infections, inflammatory conditions, poisoning, metabolic disorders, nutritional disorders, injuries, degenerative diseases, or cancer.

“Palm Beach Equine Clinic has an incredible ability to do advanced imaging and diagnostics on neurologic conditions,” said Dr. Heidmann. “With equipment like the standing CT, we can do scans of the head and neck with contrast – a CT myelogram – which really increases our ability to diagnosis a condition.”

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is able to locate problems not only on the top or bottom of a horse’s neck, but also on the sides of the neck – an area previously inaccessible to view even from myelograms under anesthesia.

“That’s part of the satisfaction of the job that I do; It’s not just ‘here is my experience and here is what I guess is going on.’ I have all of these options at my fingertips for diagnostics and tests. We can confidently confirm our clinical suspicions and then do treatment based on that.”

Respiratory Disease in Horses

As common as a cold for a human or acute in nature, Dr. Heidmann further breaks down the different kinds of common respiratory disease in horses into three categories:

Equine Asthma “Heaves”

The majority of the horses competing in Florida during the winter season are cared for impeccably, which reduces the occurrences of chronic respiratory conditions or significant lung conditions. As a result, what is most commonly seen is equine asthma or heaves. According to Dr. Heidmann, equine asthma is treatable through a combination of nebulized medications, nebulized steams, oral medications, or injections. These methods serve to quiet the inflammatory response similar to how an inhaler helps relieve a human with asthma problems.

Acute Infections

Viral cases of respiratory disease include flu and Rhinopneumonitis, or rhino, caused by one of two types of equine herpesviruses; EHV-1 and EHV-4. While vaccinations are the easiest method to prevent cases of flu and rhino, these problems are a big concern because they spread so readily. While proper biosecurity protocols go hand in hand with vaccinations, isolation is key when it comes to infectious diseases affecting the respiratory system, according to Dr. Heidmann.

Shipping Fever

The most severe kind of respiratory disease found in horses is shipping fever, which is an infection that takes advantage of a horse’s stress while traveling and results in an immune compromise. While treatable, these infections require two to three or more months on antibiotics that transition from injectable to oral, according to Dr. Heidmann.

Condylar Fracture: Your Horse’s Career Isn’t Over!

Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) is changing the prognosis for condylar fracture injuries among sport horses. Advances in imaging, surgical talent, and the facilities necessary to quickly diagnose, treat, repair, and rehabilitate horses with condylar fractures have recently improved immensely.

Most commonly seen in Thoroughbred racehorses and occasionally polo ponies, a condylar fracture was once considered a career-ending injury. Today, however, odds are in favor of a full recovery with horses regularly returning to competition 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 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 PBEC 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.”

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 PBEC 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 fairly simple for us to fix,” 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. PBEC’s board-certified radiologist Dr. Sarah Puchalski utilizes the advanced imaging services at PBEC 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.
Surgical lag screws are used to reconnect the fractured condyle with the cannon bone.

Once the injury is identified as a condylar fracture, PBEC 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 very simple and 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 good compression, the fractures heal very quickly and nicely.”

More complicated fractures, or fractures that are fully displaced, may require more 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.

PBEC surgeon Dr. Jorge Gomez, approaches a simpler non-displaced condylar fracture while the horse is standing, which helps to aid in a faster recovery and more successful surgical outcome.

“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 surgery pit installed at PBEC. The four-and-a-half-foot recessed area allows doctors to perform surgeries on anything from a horse’s hock and below from a standing position. Horses can forgo the risks of general anesthesia for a mild sedative and local nerve blocks, greatly improving outcomes.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is changing the prognosis for condylar fracture injuries among sport horses
Palm Beach Equine Clinic is changing the prognosis for condylar fracture injuries among sport horses

“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.”

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Offers a Triple Threat in Alternative Therapies

Whether it’s for an Olympic hopeful or a reliable trail horse, Palm Beach Equine Clinic has more than 30 years of proven success keeping horses healthy and happy while working to extend their performance careers. In addition to innovative veterinary services that utilize advanced diagnostic tools and surgical equipment, Palm Beach Equine Clinic also offers alternative therapies to optimize health and increase the longevity of the horse’s performance career.

Veterinary chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine are three alternatives to standard medical treatments offered at Palm Beach Equine Clinic. While all of Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians are versed in the many aspects of equine medicine, several of the doctors have studied extensively in alternative therapies. Dr. Natalia Novoa treats horses with chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture, and Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis focuses on acupuncture treatment and uses Chinese herbal medicine to bring out the best in her patients.

Alternative Therapies for a Competitve Edge

equine acupuncture Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Acupuncture services by Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

“The line between success and failure is very thin for performance horses, and a lot of these alternative therapies can be very useful in giving the horse that little bit more,” explained Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Richard Wheeler. “Chiropractic and acupuncture are just two of the alternative therapies that we offer. They are both conjunctive therapies that can keep horses comfortable, happy and performing well.

“Both chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture can get the horse moving and feeling better, and help to maintain some minor chronic problems that they may have, therefore avoiding more invasive treatments,” Dr. Wheeler continued. “For neck or back pain, once we diagnose a problem, we may treat it and then follow up with a program of alternative therapies. These therapies are used with the aim of keeping the horse supple and moving with ease and helping the musculature to work correctly. We work with the trainers to optimize muscle development so that we can fix the problem and keep the horse moving forward and performing at their top level.”

Alternative Therapy: Equine Acupuncture

Fellow Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian, Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis is skilled in acupuncture and herbal medicine. Acupuncture is a form of treatment used in both traditional and classical Chinese medicine. It is based on the principle that there are energetic pathways, or channels, throughout the body that influence associated internal organs and structures. Energy from these pathways surfaces at various points on the body, identified as acupuncture points. Extremely fine gauge needles are inserted at selected points, stimulating these points and thereby activating the body’s natural healing abilities.

Equine Acupuncture by Palm Beach Equine Clinic Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis
Equine Acupuncture by Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Janet Greenfield-Davis

We offer acupuncture, chiropractic and herbal medicine as an alternative or adjunct therapy to your current veterinary protocol,” Dr. Greenfield-Davis explained. “With acupuncture, we stimulate particular points that can relieve pain, increase endorphins, calm, and improve health and body function in horses. These specific points have a high capacity of nerve endings, lymphatic vessels, and blood vessels, as well as hormone stimulation.”

Clinical trials indicate that acupuncture may be an effective adjunct therapy for musculoskeletal problems such as muscle soreness, back pain, disc problems, osteoarthritis, and degenerative joint disease. Acupuncture may help neurological disorders such as laryngeal hemiplegia, and facial and radial nerve paralysis. It can help with gastrointestinal disorders including diarrhea, gastric ulcers, colic, and impaction. Acupuncture may also help with respiratory diseases, metabolic and endocrine diseases, and other chronic conditions, such as anhidrosis, heaves, asthma, cough, uveitis, and behavioral problems.

Alternative Therapy: Veterinary Chiropractic Manipulations

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation are increasingly popular amongst sport horse owners, and Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Natalia Novoa offers both forms of treatment.

“Chiropractic adjustment is an excellent complementary modality that can be used for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of selected neuromusculoskeletal disorders,” Dr. Novoa explained. “The practice of chiropractic focuses on the relationship between structure (primary spinal column) and function (coordinated by the nervous system) to restore it. The goal is to treat soft tissue injuries or articular dysfunction to optimize health through manual therapy and to detect and treat abnormalities and alleviate pain.”

Dr. Natalia Novoa treats an equine patient with chiropractic manipulation.
Dr. Natalia Novoa treats an equine patient with chiropractic manipulation.

Veterinary chiropractic manipulation is thought to optimize equine health by restoring the normal joint motion, reversing mild pathology, and helping to slow the progression of degenerative joint and spine disease. Over the years, this therapy has become a valuable adjunct for competition horses.
Chiropractic manipulation is also a great treatment option for horses that suffer neck and back pain, nerve damage, poor performance, behavioral problems, muscle spasms, localized or regional joint stiffness, unexplained lameness, gait abnormalities asymmetry/muscle imbalance/atrophy, injuries resulting from falls, trauma (such as slips, getting cast in the stall, or missteps), or poor fitting equipment.

Equine Chiropractic Adjustments Palm Beach Equine Clinic Dr. Natalia Novoa

“I identify the restricted movement or subluxations by manipulating and evaluating the joint mobilization. Then I restore the joint motion with an adjustment, which is a manually controlled force applied to a specific joint,” Dr. Novoa said of the process.  Chiropractic and acupuncture therapies are complementary treatments for lameness problems and other issues. They are alternative methods and do not replace conventional veterinary medicine or surgery, but can be very useful in maintaining top performance levels in your horse.

“There has been an increase of interest in non-traditional therapy, and Palm Beach Equine Clinic is aware of its great value, so we provide the services to allow our horses to reach maximum performance potential and overall health,” Dr. Novoa concluded.

Regenerative Medicine Steps into the Future at Palm Beach Equine Clinic

As sport horses become faster and stronger, veterinary medicine is often challenged to break barriers to provide the best in diagnostic and maintenance care. Palm Beach Equine Clinic is consistently on the forefront of those advances and employs a team of veterinarians equipped with the latest developments in regenerative medicine.

Two resources that have become increasingly popular to treat equine injuries are Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein (IRAP) to encourage regeneration of injured or degenerative tissue. Managing joint diseases and injuries using these methods is ground-breaking, but logical at their core. They essentially use naturally-occurring proteins, cells, and other natural bodily processes. Regenerative therapies put the horse’s own biological mechanisms to work stimulating healing without the use of steroids or other drugs.

What is PRP?                                              

Platelets are among the very first cells to accumulate at an injured site, making them very important when simulating the repair process. Platelets contain granules filled with growth factors (the elements that aid in healing) and stimulate specified tissue to heal at an increased rate. To treat a horse with PRP, the veterinarians at PBEC are able to take a sample of the horse’s blood and concentrate the platelets in a high-speed centrifuge onsite. The harvest and processing procedure takes approximately 30 minutes before the concentrated platelet rich sample is injected back into the horse at the specific area of injury using sterile techniques and guided by ultrasound.

A PRP tendon injection taking place at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.
A PRP tendon injection taking place at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

PBEC’s Board-Certified Staff Surgeon, Dr. Weston Davis, explained PRP use in more detail: “We harvest a large quantity of blood, anywhere from 60 to180 milliliters, and we process that to concentrate the segment that is very rich in platelets. We get a high concentration of platelets – we are hoping for five to eight times the concentration that you would get from normal blood. Then we take that platelet-rich extract and inject it back into an injured area to encourage a more robust healing response. Whenever you have an injury, platelets are one of the first cells that get there. They will aggregate, clump, and de-granulate. They release these granules, which are very rich in growth factors, and signal the body to start the healing process.”

What is IRAP?

IRAP is used to treat equine athletes that are susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries and osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. Joint trauma results in the release of inflammatory mediators such as Interleukin-1 (IL-1). IRAP uses a horse’s own anti-inflammatory protein found within the blood to counteract the destructive effects of IL-1 to slow the process of osteoarthritis. The process works by binding to the IL-1 receptors in the joint and blocking the continuation of damage and inflammation.

An injection being administered by use of a guided ultrasound. Palm Beach Equine Clinic
An injection being administered by use of a guided ultrasound at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

“We often see joint damage in sport horses because of the nature of their work, but we try to avoid overuse of steroids in joints because steroids can have long term effects on cartilage,” said PBEC veterinarian Dr. Samantha Miles. “This is a way we can manage joint disease and stop inflammation without having to consistently use steroids every time. Some of our clients will maintain their horses on IRAP alone for joint injections.”

The goal to better serve sports horses that continue to improve athletically is the driving force behind the development of even more developed and precise techniques used in regenerative medicine. And, at PBEC, the work to break new ground is never finished.

“I believe we are learning more about these technologies with more advanced science behind what they do and how they do it,” said Miles. “These treatments are natural, drug-free, and competition safe, and necessity drives the need for regenerative therapies in the sport horse world.”

Breeding the Modern Way

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Own Dr. Katie Atwood Discusses a 21st Century Take on Equine Reproduction

The process of breeding sport horses is ever-changing. Whether in an effort to produce the healthiest, most talented foals, to prolong the competition career of a mare, or make the most of a stallion’s longevity, reproductive science in horses has come a long way from the days of the traditional breeding shed.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Katie Atwood

Dr. Katie Atwood joined Palm Beach Equine Clinic, based in Wellington, FL, in June and brought her passion for reproductive work with her to the winter equestrian capital of the world.

I like the creating of life,” said Dr. Atwood, who is a Florida native and University of Florida graduate and currently pursuing steps to become a board-certified reproductive specialist. “Equine medicine is intriguing, but you’re dealing with sick, unhealthy animals. With reproduction, I am working with healthy animals and making their babies, which I love!”

Embryo Transfer

The most popular wave of advancement that has hit the horse sport industry over the past several years is the process of embryo transfer.

How it works:

  1. A donor mare and stallion, who hold the genetics of the future foal, are bred.
  2. At seven or eight days of pregnancy, the embryo is flushed out.
  3. A catheter is placed through the vagina and cervix, and an inflatable cuff on the catheter provides a fluid-tight seal.
  4. A lavage fluid with surfactin (added to reduce the “stickiness” of the embryo and allow it to be extracted easily) passes down through a tubing system into the uterine lumen. As the fluid swirls throughout the lumen and drains back out through gravity, it collects the embryo, which is swept back out. The fluid and embryo pass out through the tubing system into and through an embryonic filter.
  5. When the embryo is identified under microscope, it is removed into a more enriched medium until the time of transfer.
  6. The embryo is shipped to a recipient farm where a young and healthy surrogate mare of decent size receives the embryo. That mare carries the foal to term, but it is genetically created from the donor mare and stallion.

While the process is fascinating, some may wonder why it’s necessary. According to Dr. Atwood, it relieves much of the concern owners have about breeding their sport horse mares.

“The gestation period for a horse is 11 months, so you’re only getting one foal per year when you breed traditionally,” she said. “This allows a mare to produce multiple foals per year, but it also allows that mare to remain in competition. This process can be done on younger mares with no interruptions to their competition and training schedules.”

Horses are now being bred at an ideal reproductive age while they are still in training, which is made even more valuable by the fact that advances in equine science has prolonged the longevity of horses. While 16 or 17 was once the age of an older horse, now it’s commonly seen as the age when horses are winning in the show ring. Thanks to embryo transfer, these horses can enjoy longer, healthy careers and still produce the talent of the future.

reproductive services palm beach equine clinic

Dr. Atwood has seen embryo transfers become popular in dressage and polo, but she has begun to see it span all disciplines, saying, “At the start of the season, I had one farm and a few mares, but now it has quickly grown to several farms with multiple mares at each. It is really taking off because people now realize it does not remove their mares from competition.”

The process not only keeps mares competing, but it allows stallions to cross continents. Frozen fertilized embryos from working polo ponies in the U.S. are now being shipped to Argentina where they are carried by mares and then trained by some of the best polo trainers in the world. On the flip side, semen can also be frozen and shipped to the U.S.

“Stallions are collected, the semen is placed with an extender and high nutrient base so the sperm has something to use for energy, and then cooled slowly until it is frozen in liquid nitrogen,” said Dr. Atwood. “Once frozen, it is theoretically good forever. Last year, I bred a mare with 1991 semen and she was successfully pregnant!”

What’s Next at Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Palm Beach Equine Clinic underwent significant facility renovations over the last year, which included improvements to their onsite breeding shed. Now covered from the heat and inclement weather like an indoor arena, the shed boasts a hydraulic phantom mare.

breeding shed palm beach equine clinic phantom mare.
Inside the breeding shed, PBEC houses a hydraulic phantom mare. Photo by Jump Media.

“We can raise a lower our phantom with the push of a button so it can be the appropriate for the stallion,” said Dr. Atwood. “Previously, we had to bring a tractor in to raise and lower the phantom.”

Additionally, Palm Beach Equine Clinic recently incorporated the use of a SCA® CASA (computer assisted sperm analyzer) system into their reproduction work. An excellent way to improve quality control of a stallion’s sperm, the system evaluates sperm motility (velocity and type of movement), concentration (sperm count), morphology (sperm shape), DNA fragmentation (counting of fragmented sperm), vitality (live and dead count) and acrosome reaction, which is what ultimately allows the sperm to penetrate the egg.

From onsite experience to computer technology, Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers Dr. Atwood the opportunity to be at the forefront of equine reproduction, a place she has always strived to be.

“I wanted to come into a practice that had a developed program in place, but what is even more important to me is mentoring and teaching my technicians and clients about reproduction,” she said. “It is so important to make sure these techniques are shared and promoted for the continued success of veterinarians, owners, and most of all horses.”

Speak with Dr. Atwood about breeding your horse by filling out the form below


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“No Hoof, No Horse”: Three Aspects of Correct Farriery

Many a seasoned horseman will admit that success in any discipline of horse sport is dependent on healthy hooves. Palm Beach Equine Clinic proudly offers the most advanced equine podiatry services to referring veterinarians and clients.

As the winter show season reaches its peak in South Florida, hoof care is paramount and the importance of good quality hoof care in the competition horse can’t be denied. The equine hoof is unique, as it is comprised of a group of biological structures that follow the laws of biomechanics. To that end, the farrier is a major asset during the show season as he or she can be proactive in maintaining the health of a horse’s foot and help to prevent lameness.

There are three very important aspects of farriery science that the farrier will use to keep any horse sound:

1. The Trim

Trimming the foot in conjunction with the size and placement of the horseshoe. Typically, a farriery session will begin with an evaluation of the conformation of each hoof from the front, side, and behind to observe the height of the heels. Next, the farrier should observe the horse in motion to see whether the horse’s foot lands heel first, flat or toe first. Regarding the trim, many farriers no longer use the term ‘balance the foot’ – which has no meaning – and have begun to use guidelines or landmarks when approaching the trim.

The guidelines used are:

  • Trimming to achieve a straight hoof-pastern axis
  • Using the widest part of the foot which correlates to the center of rotation
  • Trimming the palmar foot (heels) to the base of the frog or to the same plane as the frog.

A closer look at these three guidelines, which are all interrelated, will help to show their importance. If the dorsal (front) surface of the pastern and the dorsal surface of the hoof are parallel or form a straight line, then the bones of the digit (P1, P2, P3) are in a straight line, and the force from the weight of the horse will go through the middle of the joint. Furthermore, and equally important, if the hoof-pastern axis is straight, the weight will be distributed evenly on the bottom of the foot.

2. Center of rotation (COR)

As the COR is located a few millimeters behind the widest part of each foot, it allows the farrier to apply appropriate biomechanics to each foot. The foot is trimmed in approximate proportions on either side of the widest part of the foot, which provides biomechanical efficiency.

3. The Heel

Correct Farriery Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Foot where heels have migrated forward and red circle shows the soft tissue structures displaced out of the hoof capsule and thickened. Right: Shows the same foot after the heels have been trimmed and a larger shoe has been applied.

One should trim the palmar section of the foot to the base of the frog or trim such that the heels of the hoof capsule and the frog are on the same plane. Adherence to this guideline keeps the soft tissue structures (frog, digital cushion, ungula cartilages) within the hoof capsule, which are necessary to absorb concussion and dissipate the energy of impact. We must remember that heels do not grow tall, they grow forward. If we allow the heels to migrate forward, the soft tissue structures will be forced backward out of the hoof capsule. Furthermore, as the heels migrate forward, the weight is placed on the bone and lamellae, thus bypassing the soft tissue structures of the foot. Allowing the heels to migrate forward also decreases the ground surface of the foot.

These three guidelines can be applied to any foot and they serve as a basis for maintaining a healthy foot, as well as a basic starting point for applying farriery to a horse with poor foot conformation or one with a distorted hoof capsule.

Correct Farriery Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Foot shows the three guidelines applied to the foot. Note the proportions on either side of the widest part (black line) of the foot. Right: Shows the length of the shoe and the wide expanse of the shoe creating a platform under the foot.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Provides the Best in Emergency Colic Care

Fear of colic is in the back of many horse owners’ minds, but with the expert care of Palm Beach Equine Clinic, owners can rest easy knowing that they have some of the world’s best surgeons and veterinarians at their disposal in the event of an emergency.

Colic 101

Characterized by abdominal pain or problems with the gastrointestinal tract, colic is something that often arises unexpectedly and from many different origins. Spoiled feed, abrupt changes in feed, parasite infestation, sand ingestion, lack of water consumption, and even excess stress or changes in the weather are among the numerous causes generally related to colic.

Colic Symptoms

Whatever the cause may be, the most important step any owner can take is to recognize the symptoms as early as possible and immediately call their veterinarian. Pawing, rolling, looking at abdomen, sweating, loss of interest in food and water, and absence of gut sounds in any of the four abdominal quadrants are some of the telltale signs of colic development. Unfortunately, colic can be fatal, but the proper knowledge and care may save your horse’s life. The sooner your veterinarian gets involved in treatment, the better your horse’s chance of survival.

Dr. Weston Davis surgery palm beach equine clinic

Emergency Colic Care

In the event of an emergency, the veterinarians and surgeons of Palm Beach Equine Clinic are available 24/7 to offer the very best care for your equine partner. Palm Beach Equine Clinic is renowned for its referral full-service surgical center and intensive care hospital located in the heart of Wellington, Florida. Board-Certified surgeons, primary care veterinarians, and skilled hospital technicians are available to treat, monitor, and care for critical cases. With world-class veterinarians and a full staff of highly trained technicians, both clients and patients of Palm Beach Equine Clinic are in the best hands possible.

Surgical Capabilities

Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers the latest in technology as the surgical techniques are less invasive and result in faster recovery times for your horse. The surgical team leader, Dr. Robert Brusie, is a nationally renowned, Board-Certified surgeon. Dr. Brusie’s surgical specialties include orthopedic, arthroscopic, and emergency cases. Dr. Brusie has been the head surgeon with PBEC for the past 20 years.

“In the last ten years, colic surgery has come a long, remarkable way,” Dr. Brusie stated. “With our clients, if the horse needs to go to surgery, we get an approximately 95% success rate. We attribute that to the client’s excellent care of their horses, as well as their knowledge to contact us immediately. That being said, colic surgery is always the last resort. We try to help all horses improve medically first.”

Palm Beach Equine’s surgical suite and staff is prepared to handle all types of emergencies, day and night. The large team of 40 veterinarians includes three Board-Certified Surgeons who rotate on-call duties so every day is covered. This aids Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians and all of Southeast Florida with the ability to treat their emergencies requiring surgical assistance as quickly as possible. The state-of-the-art intensive care hospital is equipped with top-of-the-line medical equipment, including digital video cameras for the clinicians to easily monitor their patients from any location, at any time.

Meet Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Robert Brusie

Need Emergency Colic Care?

For more information on the Palm Beach Equine Clinic facility or in case of an emergency, please call (561) 793-1599 to contact an on-call veterinarian.

Educating Horse Owners: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment of Colitis

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

fluid therapy palm beach equine clinic hospital
Fluid therapy is typically necessary for equine colitis cases.

Understanding colitis – the symptoms, diagnostics, and treatment— can help in recognizing the condition. Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s Dr. Selina Watt has helped provide some fundamental information that horse owners and barn managers should be aware of in regards to equine colitis.

Understanding Colitis and Its Causes

Located in the equine hindgut is the large colon, where microbial digestion and water absorption occurs. The large colon averages 12 feet in length and can hold approximately 20 gallons of feed material and water. When the colon becomes inflamed, the horse is diagnosed with colitis.

While the general definition of colitis is simple and straightforward, the causes can be broader. However, two of the most prevalent causes of colitis are bacterial infections or overuse of medication. Colitis from infectious bacteria 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 a similar inflammation of the large colon. The inflamed colon causes the horse to have diarrhea, as the colon is unable to properly perform its job of adequately absorbing water, electrolytes, and nutrients from the intestinal content. As the condition progresses, leaky membranes of the colon may cause a release of toxins into the bloodstream and the horse will suffer a loss in protein levels. This condition can ultimately affect the entire body as bacteria and toxins circulate, potentially leading to laminitis, founder, protein deficiencies, and a greater risk of complications or lack of a full recovery.

Symptoms and Diagnostics

The first and most conspicuous symptom of colitis is diarrhea. If diarrhea persists, horses can begin to show signs of dehydration and protein loss due to the volume of fluids and nutrients being excreted. Keeping a watchful eye on the consistency of your horse’s manure can be key to catching this condition early. Fever or a lack of energy or appetite may be indicators of colitis and it is recommended to not wait to see what develops but to rather contact a knowledgeable veterinarian for proper diagnostics right away.

Blood testing at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic laboratory.

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

Following the initial diagnosis of colitis, a fecal sample is sent to a laboratory where it is tested and analyzed for various forms of bacteria. Comprehensive laboratory results will determine 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 fluid therapy and gastro protectants to aid the intestinal wall. If the colitis is caused by infectious bacteria, the patient will also require antibiotic treatment and proper biosecurity measures to prevent transmission. If the bloodwork indicates low protein levels, plasma therapy may also be necessary.

At Palm Beach Equine Clinic, the intensive care management team consists of veterinarians and hospital staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Equine colitis cases cannot simply be administered fluids and left to improve, instead, they require careful monitoring around the clock. If the veterinarian feels the colitis case is severe, the horse may need hourly assessments. This can be of the utmost importance, as colitis cases often rapidly deteriorate without proper veterinary monitoring and swift care.

palm beach equine clinic hospital barn aisle
The Equine Hospital at Palm Beach Equine Clinic is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There is no guaranteed prevention plan for colitis, however, careful management of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and optimal nutrition can help minimize a horse’s risks of developing the non-infectious colitis condition. 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. Speak with a Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian regarding the proper medication and nutritional needs of your unique horse by calling 561-793-1599.

Early Response to Equine Joint Disease Improves Career Longevity

At Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL, the team of Board-Certified surgeons are 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.
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.

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 inside of a joint. Chip fracture removal is a procedure that is particularly commonly in both young Warmblood horses with developmental disease and in racehorses travelling at high speeds. A small chip fracture can cause persistent irritation in the joint as well as arthritis if left untreated. It is best removed immediately so that no further damage is created. The surgeon can go into the joint, remove the chip, and clean up the surrounding cartilage. Most horses recovery quickly and return to their normal athletic activity.

Board-Certified Surgeon Dr. Weston Davis performs many arthroscopic surgeries at Palm Beach Equine Clinic 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 because it is minimally invasive so most horses can go right back to work,” Dr. Davis continued. “In a typical scenario, we thoroughly explore the joint with the arthroscopic camera, we remove a chip or repair a lesion, and the horse is not lame after the surgery. Because of the small incisions, there is minimal aftercare and horses are often able to go 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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic 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.

BEFORE Large prolapsed meniscal tear.
BEFORE Large prolapsed meniscal tear.
AFTER Post debridement of torn meniscal tissue.
AFTER Post debridement of torn meniscal tissue.
BEFORE Tear of deep digital flexor tendon in navicular bursa.
BEFORE Tear of deep digital flexor tendon in navicular bursa.
AFTER Surface of deep digital flexor tendon after cleanup.
AFTER Surface of deep digital flexor tendon after cleanup.

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 Palm Beach Equine Clinic 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 Clinic.

“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.

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