Equine event shows value of endoscope

Jan Shepel

Arlington - Horse owners were able to get the latest on equine care and scientific research last weekend at a special event hosted by Lodi Veterinary Care (LVC) for its equine clients. Clinic veterinarians and technicians demonstrated on live horses how the practice’s new endoscope can be used to diagnose problems in the digestive tract and in the respiratory tract.
            The addition of live horses to the clinic’s annual appreciation dinner for its equine clients was made possible by a change of venue. Previously the event had been held at the Lodi High School but this year a conflicting event made it necessary to find another location. Using the University of Wisconsin’s Arlington Agricultural Research Station’s Public Events building meant that they could offer demonstrations on live animals.
            New to the veterinary practice in the last year or so is the endoscope. The diagnostic tool uses either a one-meter scope for use in the upper respiratory tract or a three-meter scope in the digestive tract.
In the respiratory tract it can help the vets visualize nasal passages, guttural pouches, the larynx and trachea. Dr. Dave Kolb explained that taking a close look at the larynx can help them determine if a horse has breathing problems as the result of paralysis of one side of the larynx – often called “roaring” because of the sound the horse may make when it breathes heavily. (The technical term is laryngeal hemiplegia.)
            He spoke about the use of the scope as Dr. Kathryn Livesey demonstrated its use with several sedated horses. With the help of veterinary technicians, she maneuvered the scope into a tricky area of the respiratory tract to show the guttural pouches where infections like “strangles” can linger. The tool can be used to take samples for cultures or cytology.
            It can also be useful in looking at the esophagus to diagnose problems with horses who have repeated or severe bouts of choking.
            With a second horse Livesey demonstrated how the scope vividly illuminates the stomach and esophagus of equine patients. It can offer pictures of parasites in the stomach or diagnose ulcers in horses.
            Kolb explained that the stomach of horses has two distinctive linings, one covers the inside of the stomach in the upper region and the “glandular” area is at the lower portion of the stomach, where the acid is produced. When the horse produces excess acid and it splashes up on the tender upper lining of the stomach it can cause ulcers or Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS.)
            Affected horses can exhibit signs in various ways – poor performance, pain after a grain meal, general unease and lack of vigor.

Ulcer treatment

There is an approved medication for horses – omeprazole – which is the same drug that humans can take, just in a different form. For horses it comes in a paste that is administered like a de-wormer.
            Kolb talked about research that placed pH meters in horses’ stomachs to determine the amount of acid reduction (rise in pH) that occurs after treatment with the drug. This research is causing him and his colleagues to specify how the drug is to be used on horses to get the best result.
            “We are now advising that the horse should be treated in the morning before it is fed, rather than giving the drug on a full stomach,” Kolb said. “The best results from this drug come if you can wait an hour after treatment before you feed. And then it would be best to feed hay first and then grain.”
            The research is suggesting that treating a horse for ulcers when it has a full stomach, doesn’t reduce the pH much and since the drug is fairly expensive and ulcers can be quite painful to the horse, it’s best to get optimum results from its use, he suggested.
            Livesey talked about new kinds of boots that are available to use on horses who have bouts of laminitis. They have cushioned insoles that help give the horse relief from the pain in its feet. She also showed boot-like devices that can be filled with cold water and ice to help alleviate the pain of laminitis in its early stages, as well as other problems in the limb.
            Another new device comes to U.S. horse owners from Ireland. It’s a mask that can be put on horses that shines a blue LED light in one eye, simulating some of the wavelengths of sunlight that are important to suppress the horse’s production of melatonin.
            This causes an increase in gonadotropin-releasing hormone which leads to follicle-stimulating hormone which leads mares to ovulate. The use of this mask is similar to using long-day lighting to bring mares into season earlier in the year or to get horses to shed out sooner in the spring. Research with the mask – which eliminates having to light a whole barn to get similar results – is also linked to 10 fewer days in the mare’s gestation.
            It has also been used on stallions and to prepare yearlings for big sales, she said.

Housing improvements

Dr. Laura Wagner talked with equine clients about how common horse husbandry practices may create behavioral problems.
            Reviewing research published in an equine journal, she noted that there are some housing and handling practices horse owners should probably make for the good of their animals. “They are looking at this more and more in the United Kingdom and in Europe,” she said.
            For many horses, their living situation is the opposite of what would be considered natural for horses. Being kept in stalls or small paddocks continuously can be bad for their social interaction and may lead to increased adrenal response, leading to dangerous “stereotypical behaviors” that can become dangerous like kicking and rearing.
            Horses may become more dangerous and aggressive if they are kept in paddock groups with high turnover – horses coming and going, which leads to changes in dominance and pecking order. Similarly, keeping horses alone and isolated can be detrimental, she said, as it limits their social contact.
            The research appears to show that early social experiences for young horses will produce horses that are more adaptable and trainable. It also appears to reduce adrenal response and stress. Suggestions she had for changes in horses’ housing were to replace solid walls between horses with spaced bars and to leave split doors open on the upper half. Both changes allow horses to communicate with and see each other in the barn.

Building project

Managing partner in the large veterinary practice K.C. Brooks, talked about the clinic’s building, remodeling and expansion project at their site near downtown Lodi.
            The clinic was originally built in the 1960s, he said, and had been added onto over the years. The current building project, which began in the fall, will add 14,000 square feet of additional room for better patient care in the practice, which includes large animal, equine and companion animal care.
            In 1988 the practice had six veterinarians, he said. Now it has 22 total vets – six of whom are equine specialists.
            A lot adjacent to the existing clinic building had a previous life as a trailer park, but a few years ago the veterinary practice was able to purchase the land with an eye to expanding the facility.
            The new and remodeled building will include a new indoor cattle handling facility and re-vamped equine hospital facilities. An addition to the site will be an equine turnout area which they didn’t have before, he said.
            The equine side of the practice has also been involved in a national event sponsored by the American Horse Council called “Time to Ride.” The project, which is run as a contest, aims at getting local groups to provide “beginner-friendly horse events.” The overall aim is to get young people interested and involved in horses.
            Lodi Veterinary Care hosted an event for the first time two years ago and last year won eighth place in the Horse Council’s large event division, Kolb said. With industry sponsorship, the top prize in the national event is $8,000.
            The practice provided events for over 300 newcomers to get in touch with horses at the local Suzy the Duck Days in Lodi and at the Treinen Farm corn maze, where the family’s draft horses were featured. Events like that are critical to getting kids, and future horse owners, involved, he said.

Equine veterinarian Dr. Kathryn Livesey, right, and veterinary technician Kristina Smith, of Lodi Veterinary Care, demonstrated on a sedated horse how the clinic is able to use its endoscope for examining the stomach, esophagus and upper respiratory tract to diagnose problems. They projected the scope’s images onto a big screen for a gathering of their equine clients on Feb. 11 at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station.