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Category: News

Hunkering Down? We’re Here for You & Your Pets

No matter what life may bring, our pets are here for us.
And Palm Beach Equine Clinic is here for them.

Small Animal Veterinary Care Palm Beach Equine Clinic

In our commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of our patients, clients and community, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is expanding to treat all four-legged members of your family.

Whether you are concerned for the health of yourself, your loved ones, or simply doing your part to flatten the curve, our team of veterinarians is here to help by prioritizing the the health of your animals.

Save yourself from the stress and risks associated with taking your pet to the veterinarian. Please contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic for your small animal veterinary needs. A team of Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians is able to care for your pets through select small animal veterinary services during this unsettling time.

blood draw small animal

Here for the Health of All Barn Critters

Whether at Your Farm or at the Clinic

  • Vaccinations
  • Bloodwork & Fecal Testing
  • Select Medications (such as heartworm or flea and tick treatments)
  • Physical Exams
  • Acupuncture

Don’t hesitate to ask your Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian about the care of your pets. We are here to support you and your animals, and can provide accommodations to safely tend to your pets.

Call Palm Beach Equine Clinic for questions regarding your pets at 561-793-1599.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Remains Open Amid COVID-19

In an executive order issued March 20, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has directed all non-essential businesses in Palm Beach County to close. As a veterinary hospital, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is an essential business and will remain open.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic is committed to the care of equine patients and will continue providing care, whether for elective treatments or emergency procedures. Our equine hospital, laboratory, and diagnostic departments are fully functioning, expertly staffed, and equipped to treat any type of equine condition. A Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarian is always available in the event of an emergency, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

While our doors remain open to support clients through this distressing time, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

covid-19 coronavirus essential business palm beach equine clinic coronavirus open doors
  • Hand sanitizers have been posted to our main doors and we encourage all clients to take a pump before entering the Clinic.
  • As standard medical practice, Palm Beach Equine Clinic continues to implement high-level disinfection and sterilization of medical equipment and devices. To ensure our staff and clients are kept safe, stricter cleaning protocols have been implemented throughout the Clinic and will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
  • Please limit the number of individuals present during your horse’s appointment. Our veterinarians are equipped with skilled technicians to handle your horse.
  • Please be cognizant of social distancing measures even if you have no signs of illness.
  • If you or a family member are not feeling well, suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, or have recently traveled to areas with active COVID-19 transmission, please call the front desk at 561-793-1599 to reschedule your horse’s appointment or arrange for another person to be present at the appointment.
  • We encourage horse owners and barn managers to be prepared in the event that they or their staff becomes ill and cannot care for their horse. Having a dependable backup caretaker for your horse and organizing clear instructions on feed, medications, exercise and general care is crucial to preparedness planning.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic continues to stay up to date on COVID-19 developments and will update our clients, partners and fellow equestrians as the situation progresses. Contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 for questions or to speak with a veterinarian.

Take Advantage of Your Time Outside the Show Ring

Dr. Scott Swerdlin Discusses His Thoughts on Being Strategic About Your Horse’s Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As we all know, the United States Equestrian Federation has suspended all points and ratings for the immediate future as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This unfortunately resulted in the cancellation of the Winter Equestrian Festival, Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and major equestrian competitions around the world. However, this does not mean that all riding and training must come to a halt.

For the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, we must follow recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are fortunate that Wellington, specifically the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District, is not a high-density area that offers picturesque bridle paths, idyllic weather and an abundance of expertise in all facets of the equine industry. Now is a unique opportunity for those who have been occupied by hectic schedules to take a step back, de-stress and even enjoy social distancing by saddling up and exploring the endless miles of excellent bridle paths.

Let’s make the most of our time in Wellington while awaiting the unclear future of the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing to ride and train our horses. Let’s try to keep a degree of normalcy in our daily routines and use this time wisely by improving both horse and rider health and well-being. Let’s use this time to ensure our horses remain in peak performance and ready to resume competition schedules when that time arrives.


Avenues for Enhancing and Maintaining Optimal Equine Health

It is vital for teams to have a veterinarian by their side keeping a close eye on the equine athlete’s health, performance and well-being. Closely monitoring a horse’s condition is key to catching potential injuries before they progress into issues that require more serious treatments. Here are some recommendations to consider incorporating during this break in competition that may benefit your horse when its time to step back into the show ring.

Preventive Medicine

Now is a perfect time to update your horse’s vaccinations and make sure your horse is ready to step back onto the showgrounds when competition resumes. Spring equine vaccinations to consider include:

  • Encephalomyelitis, Eastern (EEE) and Western (WEE)
  • Influenza
  • Rhinopneumonitis (Herpesvirus)
  • West Nile Virus
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Strangles

For horses returning to areas where Potomac Horse Fever exists, a booster for that disease is highly recommended. Ensuring your Coggins test and records are up to date is always beneficial. For questions regarding equine vaccinations, please call Palm Beach Equine Clinic at 561-793-1599 to speak with a veterinarian.

Maintenance & Regenerative Medicine

Allowing our equine athletes to thrive while extending their performance careers may require Sport Horse Medicine to improve their comfort, well-being and performance. Many horses benefit from having their hocks, stifles, and/or coffin joints injected. Horses must be thoroughly evaluated by a sport horse veterinarian to determine the necessity and potential benefit of maintenance medicine before any corticosteroid injection is administered.  

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

To further address the wear and tear incurred from intense training and competition, Regenerative Medicine is a non-steroidal option for activating and enhancing the horse’s innate bodily healing process. Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers advanced regenerative therapies for treating musculoskeletal injuries, osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.

  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
  • Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein (IRAP)
  • Autologous Conditioned Serum
  • Pro-Stride Autologous Protein Solution

Alternative Therapies

Employing a holistic approach to treating patients, Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers veterinarians with a wealth of expertise in Alternative Medicine. Alternative therapies are often used in conjunction with traditional medicine and can be uniquely tailored to enhance a horse’s performance and overall health.

5 Steps to a Chiropractic Adjustments with Dr. Natalia Novoa

Reproduction & Fertility

Cutting Edge Breeding at Palm Beach Equine Clinic Dr. Katie Atwood

Now may be the perfect time to plan for a future competition partner by breeding your horse.  Palm Beach Equine Clinic is proud to offer highly successful Embryo Transfer program. Utilize this time to begin the breeding process by having your mare safely bred through artificial insemination, with the embryo collected 7-8 days after pregnancy. A detailed Breeding Soundness and Fertility Evaluation can jumpstart your future show ring champion. Palm Beach Equine Clinic provides veterinarians with expertise in Advanced Reproductive Services and Fertility Solutions, including:

  • Stallion or Mare Breeding Soundness and Fertility
  • Embryo transfer: an ideal option for mares with busy competition schedules
  • Genetic cloning (geldings, mares or stallions)
  • Artificial insemination and semen collection, freezing, storage and shipping

Palm Beach Equine Clinic remains open and fully equipped with a team of 40 veterinarians, 60 technicians, fully stocked pharmacy, all-inclusive equine hospital and surgical suites. Speak with a PBEC veterinarian about your horse’s health and performance by calling 561-793-1599.

Equine Coronavirus Vs. COVID-19: Two Distinctly Different Diseases

To Address Raised Concerns

The spread of the novel coronavirus has raised serious concerns as the status of the virus continues to evolve. As equine veterinarians, Palm Beach Equine Clinic is here to clarify questions raised regarding the potential impact of this disease in the equine industry.

Coronaviruses include a large group of RNA viruses that cause respiratory and enteric symptoms and have been reported in domestic and wild animals. Equine Enteric Coronavirus and COVID-19 are both coronaviruses, however, they are distinctly different viruses.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infectious disease experts, and multiple international and national human and animal health organizations have stated that at this time there is NO EVIDENCE to indicate that horses could contract COVID-19 or that horses would be able to spread the disease to other animals or humans. Equine enteric coronavirus and COVID-19 are NOT the same strains and there is no indication that either are transmissible between species.

Therefore, it is important to concentrate on the health of our equestrians by being precautious and following recommendations from public health officials. Palm Beach Equine Clinic will continue to make every effort to stay informed of developments with COVID-19, and will continue to provide veterinary care to all horses regardless of the status of this disease.

A Profile of Equine Enteric Coronavirus

Equine coronavirus is an enteric, or gastrointestinal, disease in the horse. There is NO EVIDENCE that equine enteric coronavirus poses a threat to humans or other species of animals.

  • Transmission: Equine coronavirus is transmitted between horses when manure from an infected horse is ingested by another horse (fecal-oral transmission), or if a horse makes oral contact with items or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected manure.
  • Common Clinical Signs: Typically mild signs that may include anorexia, lethargy, fever, colic or diarrhea.
  • Diagnosis: Veterinarians diagnose equine enteric coronavirus by testing fecal samples, and the frequency of this disease is low.
  • Treatment and Prevention: If diagnosed, treatment is supportive care, such as fluid therapy and anti-inflammatories, and establishing good biosecurity precautions of quarantining the infected horse. Keeping facilities as clean as possible by properly disposing of manure will help decrease the chances of horses contracting the virus.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic Isolation Stalls Quarantine
Palm Beach Equine Clinic is equipped with secure isolation stalls and follows strict biosecurity measures.

Information for this notice was compiled using the following sources:

Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center: https://www.vet.cornell.edu/animal-health-diagnostic-center/veterinary-support/disease-information/equine-enteric-coronavirus

American Association of Equine Practitioners, Equine Disease Communication Center: https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Outside%20Linked%20Documents/DiseaseFactsheet_Coronavirus.pdf

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Continues Dedication to Equestrian Community as Official Veterinarians of 2020 WEF and AGDF Circuits

Equine Veterinary Care Available at PBIEC Showgrounds Annex Office

One of the world’s premier veterinary facilities, Palm Beach Equine Clinic, will return as the Official Veterinarians of the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) running January 8 through March 29 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Continues Dedication to Equestrian Community as Official Veterinarians of 2020 WEF and AGDF Circuits
Beezie Madden clearing the Palm Beach Equine Clinic jump with Darry Lou. Photo by Jump Media.

With the health and welfare of equine athletes a top priority for the upcoming winter show jumping and dressage competition seasons, Palm Beach Equine Clinic will continue more than three decades of service to both the year-round residents and visiting horses of south Florida. The clinic’s world-renowned facility is conveniently located at the intersection of Southfields Road and Pierson Road in the heart of Wellington, just minutes from PBIEC, the Equestrian Village, and the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Palm Beach Equine Clinic comprises over 35 veterinarians, with board-certified surgeons and internists, and robust support by knowledgeable technicians and staff. Palm Beach Equine Clinic offers exceptional veterinary care and an innovative approach to help each horse achieve their full potential in and outside of the show ring.

In addition to at the full-service equine hospital, Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians will be available each week to all competing horses at WEF and AGDF thanks to an annex office located adjacent to the WEF stabling office on the PBIEC showgrounds. Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians are on call daily at the annex office to assist competitors throughout the shows with diagnostic evaluations and treatments, as well as emergency and standard horse care needs. Equestrians are always welcome at the annex, where they have the opportunity to discuss their horse health needs with Palm Beach Equine Clinic.

Palm Beach Equine Clinic Veterinary Hospital in Wellington Florida.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic at the intersection of Southfields Road and Pierson Road in the heart of Wellington. Photo by Erin Gilmore Photography

“Combining the unique offerings of our imaging department, renowned surgical talent, diverse veterinary expertise, and overall high standard of treatment allows us to provide services and care that are akin to the Mayo Clinic for human patients,” said Palm Beach Equine Clinic President Dr. Scott Swerdlin. “The Winter Equestrian Festival and [Adequan®] Global Dressage Festival attract some of the world’s top horses to south Florida. Whether we are treating Olympic level athletes or a trusted companion pony, they will receive the most advanced, dedicated healthcare. It takes a team to achieve success in the competitive arena, and we provide one of the best in the world at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.”

Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinary advances – available to new, returning, and referred clients – include:

Advanced Diagnostic Offerings

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Machine
  • Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Nuclear Scintigraphy (bone scan)
  • Board-Certified Radiologist on Staff
  • Digital Radiography and Ultrasonography

Surgical Offerings

  • Three boarded surgeons skilled in performance-related injuries
  • Standing surgery pit
  • Surgical residency program
  • Advanced surgical suite

Specialty Offerings

  • Internal medicine specialists
  • Quarantine facilities with secure isolation and individual airflow systems
  • Alternative medicine specialists focused on chiropractic, acupuncture, and Chinese herbals
  • Renowned sports medicine specialists
  • On-site hospital with 24-hour staff
  • Dentistry, ophthalmology, and farriery expertise
Palm Beach Equine Clinic continues dedication as Official Veterinarians of 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival and Global Dressage Festival.
Palm Beach Equine Clinic is the Official Veterinarian of the 2020 Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

In addition to being the Official Veterinarians of WEF and AGDF, Palm Beach Equine Clinic will again participate in WEF’s popular Lunch & Learn education series during the 2020 season. Mark your calendars for a presentation entitled “Modern Medicine for the Competitive Sport Horse: How to Gain and Maintain a Healthy and Sound Show Horse” on Thursday, March 12, at 11:30 a.m. in The Wellington Club at the WEF showgrounds. Admission to the Lunch & Learn series is free for riders, trainers, and owners and includes the opportunity to learn how to help the competitive sport horse achieve and maintain optimal health through advanced technology, innovative approaches, and specialty therapies; a buffet lunch; and a chance to win exciting prizes.

For more information on what Palm Beach Equine Clinic has to offer horses competing at WEF and AGDF, stop by the annex office located next to the stabling office on the WEF showgrounds, visit www.EquineClinic.com, or call 561-793-1599.

Success Story: Diligent Pre-Purchase Practices Put “Mater” in the Winner’s Circle

When Margo Crowther of Fort Myers, FL, was looking to add a new addition to her string of barrel racing horses, she made one very important phone call. That call was to Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Dr. Weston Davis, board-certified surgeon and veterinarian at Palm Beach Equine Clinic, has been working with Crowther to keep her horses healthy, as well as performing career-saving procedures.

Success Story: Diligent Pre-Purchase Practices Put “Mater” in the Winner’s Circle

In 2016, Dr. Davis helped Crowther and her 2012 Quarter Horse mare Shes Packin Fame, or “Sissy,” return to the ring after what could have been a detrimental injury. Sissy suffered a rare slab fracture to the central tarsal bone in her left hock while competing in a barrel racing competition. After a diagnosis aided by Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s advanced diagnostic imaging equipment and a surgery performed by Dr. Davis, Shes Packin Fame not only returned to running barrels, but the mare was also back to winning the next year.

When Crowther found a new prospect named Grandiose Guy, or “Mater,” she turned to Dr. Davis to ensure her intended purchase would be a good fit. The Quarter Horse gelding was named the Barrel Futurities of America (BFA) Horse of the Year just after she purchased him, crowning him the top four-year-old in the country.

“When I was thinking about buying him, I called Dr. Davis and sent him videos of the horse working to review,” said Crowther, who started the purchase process late last year and chose to involve Dr. Davis in all aspects of the pre-purchase evaluation. “The horse was in Georgia, so he reviewed them from Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington and gave me the stamp of approval. Once a pre-purchase was performed, I sent all the x-rays to Dr. Davis and he told me to move forward.

“I trust Dr. Davis and the team at Palm Beach Equine Clinic so much!” continued Crowther. “Barrel horses work hard and it’s so important to have a great relationship with the vet who oversees their care and knows them well in order to keep them happy and healthy.”

Regardless of breed or discipline, a pre-purchase exam involves certain steps that allow the potential owner and veterinarian to investigate the horse’s health and condition. The veterinarian gathers and interprets information by physically examining the horse’s body systems and conformation, as well as reviewing the health history. A lameness assessment is completed, including flexion tests, soft tissue structure palpation and movement evaluation. Diagnostic medical imaging tools, such as radiography, ultrasonography, endoscopy, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear scintigraphy, or computed tomography, may be used to provide a more detailed and comprehensive profile of the horse.

Crowther purchased Mater and started running him at the beginning of last year, bringing him to the largest one-day rodeo, The American, in the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Texas in February. The competition had a $1 million payout and Mater and Crowther placed fifth.

“Mater” in the winner’s circle. Photo courtesy of Margo Crowther

“After so many runs, we brought him home from Texas and got him over to Dr. Davis for any maintenance work that needed to be done to keep him feeling his best,” said Crowther. “I am very picky about where I take my horses; there has to be good ground and I will not run their legs off. In conjunction with that, maintenance work with Dr. Davis is important. He performs flexion tests, utilizes the imaging at Palm Beach Equine Clinic if necessary, and makes recommendations about my horses’ health and overall well-being.”

Dr. Davis sent Mater home from Palm Beach Equine Clinic with a clean bill of health and Crowther gave the gelding a little time off before their next run. After returning to work, Mater headed to the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Florida State Championships in Kissimmee.

Crowther’s diligence and Dr. Davis’ knowledge paid off when Mater won both his runs and clinched the open final at NBHA Florida State Championships. With more than 700 entries, Mater and Crowther topped them all and were crowned overall champions of the event.

“Palm Beach Equine Clinic and Dr. Davis have been a huge part of the success I have had with all of my horses,” said Crowther. “They are always there when I need them, whether I’m headed to the clinic in Wellington or they are coming to me in Fort Meyers. It’s nice to be able to know your vet will be there for you whenever you need them.”

Palm Beach Equine Clinic to Sponsor $391,000 CSI5* Grand Prix at WEF

The world-renowned Palm Beach Equine Clinic, Official Veterinarian of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL, is the proud sponsor of the $391,000 CSI5* Grand Prix during “Saturday Night Lights” at WEF Week 7. 

Who: Some of the world’s most accomplished show jumping athletes. Once finalized, the order-of-go will be posted HERE.

What: The $391,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic CSI5* Grand Prix

When: Saturday, February 23, during “Saturday Night Lights” at 7 pm ET. Gates open at 6 pm. Free admission and $20/car parking.

Where: Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. Directions can be found HERE.

In addition to their sponsorship of this week’s CSI5* Grand Prix and of the 3’3″ Amateur-Owner Hunter 36 and Over division throughout WEF, Palm Beach Equine Clinic also provides state-of-the-art veterinary care to the horses of both the year-round residents and visitors of South Florida. Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s technologically advanced clinic is conveniently located at the intersection of Southfields Road and Pierson Road in the heart of Wellington, just minutes from PBIEC, the Equestrian Village, and the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

The expertise and dedication of Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians is also available to all competing horses at WEF and AGDF thanks to an annex office located adjacent to the WEF stabling office on the PBIEC showgrounds as well as at the main Palm Beach Equine Clinic location. Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians are on-call daily at the annex office to assist competitors throughout the shows with diagnostic evaluations and treatments, as well as emergency and standard horse care needs.  

The Horses of WEF and AGDF Will Be in Good Hands with Palm Beach Equine Clinic

Official Veterinarians of 2019 WEF and AGDF Circuits

World-renowned veterinary facility Palm Beach Equine Clinic (PBEC) will return as the Official Veterinarians of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) running January 9 through March 31 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL. 

A proponent and supporter of horse sport in Wellington and throughout the world, Palm Beach Equine Clinic has served both the year-round residents and visiting horses of south Florida for more than three decades. PBEC’s state-of-the-art clinic is conveniently located at the intersection of Southfields Road and Pierson Road in the heart of Wellington, just minutes from PBIEC, the Equestrian Village, and the International Polo Club Palm Beach. PBEC’s talented team of veterinarians offers its clients and the horses of referring veterinarians unmatched care and an innovative approach to standard and emergency services. 

Palm Beach Equine Clinic’s goal is to provide a definite diagnosis and never have to refer a case. In other words, PBEC is the equivalent of the Mayo Clinic for horses. 

“Combining the tools of our imaging department, surgical talent, and overall standard of treatment allows us to provide services far beyond what other facilities can provide,” said PBEC President Dr. Scott Swerdlin, who leads a team of more than 40 veterinarians at PBEC. “But even with all the technology we provide, we need the people to make it all happen. That is exactly what we have; veterinarians skilled in diagnostics, technicians dedicated to caring for the horses before, after, and during any procedure, and world-renowned surgeons who can take a diagnosis and treat the problem with positive results for horse and owner. It takes a team and we have one of the best in the world at Palm Beach Equine Clinic.”

PBEC’s services available to new, returning, and referred clients include:

Advanced Diagnostic Offerings

  • Computed Tomography (CT)
  • Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Nuclear Scintigraphy (bone scan)
  • Board-Certified Radiologist on Staff
  • Digital Radiography and Ultrasonography

Surgical Offerings

  • Three boarded surgeons skilled in performance-related injuries
  • Standing surgery pit
  • Surgical residency program
  • State-of-the-art surgical suite
  • Quarantine facilities with secure isolation and individual air flow systems
The Horses of WEF and AGDF Will Be in Good Hands with Palm Beach Equine Clinic
Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, Florida.

The expertise and dedication of PBEC veterinarians will be available to all competing horses at WEF and AGDF thanks to an annex office located adjacent to the WEF stabling office on the PBIEC showgrounds as well as at the main PBEC clinic location. PBEC veterinarians are on-call daily at the annex office to assist competitors throughout the shows with diagnostic evaluations and treatments, as well as emergency and standard horse care needs.

“Our location, talents, and dedication to the Wellington community and beyond have helped Palm Beach Equine Clinic to offer the best possible care to some of the world’s top equines during the winter show season,” continued Dr. Swerdlin. “Additionally, our annex office places us in the heart of it all, making advanced veterinary care convenient to equestrians competing at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. We are very proud of both facilities and the veterinarians who work there, but we are even more proud to be trusted with the care of such special animals!”

For more information on what PBEC has to offer horses competing at WEF and AGDF, stop by the annex office located next to the stabling office on the WEF showgrounds, visit www.EquineClinic.com, or call 561-793-1599.

Save The Date

In addition to being named the Official Veterinarians of WEF and AGDF, PBEC’s own veterinarians will again participate in WEF’s popular Lunch & Learn education series during the 2019 season. Mark your calendars for a presentation on Sport Horse Health on Thursday, March 7, at 11:30 a.m. in The Wellington Club at the WEF showgrounds. Admission to the Lunch & Learn series is free for riders, trainers, and owners and includes a buffet lunch and a chance to win exciting prizes from 2019 Lunch & Learn sponsors.

Understanding the Equine Neck With Dr. Richard Wheeler

In the past, when a horse’s gait has felt off or lacking in its usual impulsion, it was often assumed to be an issue of lameness. Now however, thanks to the improved diagnostics readily available at the Palm Beach Equine Clinic veterinarians are able to more accurately pinpoint the problem area. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not always in the legs or hooves. With increasing frequency, the horse’s neck is being diagnosed as the root of the issue.

The Anatomy of the Equine Neck and What Can Go Wrong

In order to understand the problems that can arise in association with the horse’s neck, it’s important to first understand the anatomy.

The neck is composed of seven cervical vertebrae running from the head to the thorax, named C1 through C7, and each articulating with each other. The primary purposes of the neck are to move the head and to protect and transport the spinal cord and nerves, which run through the middle of the vertebrae.

A Link Between Neck Issues and Lameness

Such a major role as the protection of the nerves and spinal cord can also come with some major risks and complications, with clinical signs of these problems generally presenting themselves either neurologically, as neck pain, or as lameness in the front legs. These more specific symptoms may include:

  • Ataxia or clumsiness – Ataxia is defined as the “lack of control of bodily movements”. In the case of an ataxic horse, you may begin to notice staggering, sudden loss of balance, or even an inability to remain upright. Ataxia is generally an indicator of a neurological condition or damage to the spinal cord itself, caused by either developmental issues, trauma, or an infectious disease such as equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). Such neurological cases can often be the most debilitating.
  • Lameness – You can think of the spinal cord and the nerves in the neck like an interstate, with the spinal cord itself acting as the major highway. As you are “driving” along the interstate, every so often there are little exits, which is where the other nerves come out. Should there be any impingement on the interstate or spinal cord itself, you’re likely looking at more severe complications – much like an accident on the highway. Should there be impingement on the nerves coming off of the spinal cord, it will more likely present itself like an accident a little way off an exit – not affecting the interstate itself, but possibly causing problems that spread elsewhere. That is where we see lameness issues arise.

This can be more difficult to pin down, but can often be due to pressure on the smaller nerves that pass through the openings in the vertebrae and supply the front legs. Arthritis of the articular facet joints of the vertebrae is another common reason for lameness, as anytime these joints become arthritic or inflamed, it can easily translate to the forelimbs.

  • Neck Pain – This will often go hand-in-hand with lameness, as factors such as arthritis of the articular facet joints can lead to both symptoms. Other possible reasons for neck pain include trauma or inflammatory diseases.

Diagnosing the Problem

Neck problems, particularly those related to lameness, are generally diagnosed through a process of exclusion, first performing nerve blocks to or ruling out lower regions of the horse’s body. Palpation of the neck, testing of the neck’s movement, and full neurological exams may also be performed in addition to a full lameness exam, depending on the horse’s symptoms.

Once other regions of the horse are ruled out as the location of the problem, veterinarians are now able to use diagnostic images such as radiographs, nuclear scintigraphy and standing CT scans to specifically locate problems in the neck like never before.

In years past, those diagnostic resources were left for last-ditch cases when veterinarians really could not pinpoint any other problems. Today, with the advent of more modern technology, better radiographs, better ultrasound machines, and the more advanced imaging of nuclear scintigraphy and CT scans, veterinarians are able to readily utilize advanced diagnostics to save time and money, and to find the root of the problem more quickly and accurately.

The neck is one of the areas that has most clearly benefited from the progression in advanced imaging. While neck problems have likely been prevalent for some time, veterinarians are now finding those diagnoses more common, as they are able to more accurately locate the issue – particularly at clinics like Palm Beach Equine Clinic. Often these issues will go undiscovered or undiagnosed in the field, but they can be identified at Palm Beach Equine Clinic thanks to the readily available imaging tools.

As an example, if arthritic factors are suspected, nuclear scintigraphy can be used to look for areas of increased bone turnover. On the resulting bone scan, veterinarians are looking for areas where there is an increased calcium uptake because the bone is actively remodeling. These areas will appear darker on the scan and are generally a good indicator of a boney injury or arthritis, with the darker “hot spots” often appearing above the articular facet joints.

Also new and groundbreaking for the diagnosis of equine neck problems is the use of a Computerized Tomography or CT scan, with the ability to scan a standing horse with light sedation on the near horizon which will be available at the clinic this upcoming winter season.

Treatment

Once a solid diagnosis is arrived upon, the proper treatment protocols can be prescribed. Depending on the root of the problem, possible treatments may include shockwave therapy, regenerative therapies such as interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) therapy or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, or one of the most common treatments, injections of the facet joints.

In the case of facet joint injections, veterinarians at Palm Beach Equine Clinic are able to medicate under ultrasound guidance, guiding a needle into the joints and delivering corticosteroids or similar medication. Surgery is also an option as a final approach to severe complications.

In milder cases, treatments may also just call for increased time off, chiropractic treatments, or the administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications.

If you suspect any issues with your horse’s neck, contact Palm Beach Equine Clinic any time by calling (561) 793-1599 to schedule an appointment.

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Palm Beach Equine Clinic
  • Phone
    (561) 793-1599
  • Fax
    (561) 793-2492
  • Address
    13125 Southfields Road
    Wellington, FL, 33414
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