Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points in the horse’s body, traditionally with needles, resulting in the release of beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters. Most acupuncture points are found on pathways called meridians, which are the energy flow systems of the body. Qi, the body’s natural energy, moves from one acupuncture point to the next via these meridians. The flow of Qi may also be facilitated through the use of oral or topical Chinese herbs. Disease or illness occurs when Qi is unable to flow freely along the meridians. The goal of acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy is to free stagnation in the meridians and allow Qi to flow properly. With a free flow of Qi, the body is in balance. The result is a properly functioning endocrine and immune system which is able to regulate itself and assist with the natural physiologic actions of the body.
Animal chiropractics is a therapy that focuses on establishing and maintaining the balance of the horses’ spine and neurological systems. The goal of chiropractic care is to optimize health by allowing the bodies’ restorative capabilities to find this balance. Chiropractic care involves an examination of the horse during which a change in mobility of the spine and extremities are identified and corrected with chiropractic adjustments. Horses with many issues can benefit from chiropractic care, not just a horse with a sore back. Horses that that have performance issues such as a preference for one lead, stiffness thru the poll/neck, or reluctance to engage properly can benefit from chiropractic care. In addition to the performance horse, other horses that may benefit from chiropractic care include foals, arthritic or geriatric horses, and pleasure horses.
Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein (IRAP) is one of the recent advances available to counteract osteoarthritis (OA) and joint injury in the horse. The IRAP substance is naturally present in the horse’s body but lacks sufficient levels to combat the inflammation associated with OA or acute joint injuries. One of the key substances in the horse’s body that perpetuates active inflammation is Interleukin-1 (IL-1). The job of IRAP is to mitigate the effects of IL-1 resulting in a decrease or elimination of the active inflammation present in the affected joint. When IRAP is used to treat OA, eliminating the joint inflammation results in improvement or resolution of lameness. When IRAP is used to treat acute joint injuries, the elimination of joint inflammation facilitates healing. The IRAP procedure involves collecting the horse’s own blood in a specially designed syringe containing chromium sulfate coated glass beads. The syringe is then incubated and processed resulting in serum that has exceptionally high levels of IRAP. This IRAP serum is then injected into the affected joint either once or in a series of treatments.
The purpose of a lameness examination is to identify the underlying cause of an unsoundness or biomechanical deficit. A lameness evaluation includes a physical examination, palpation of the entire musculoskeletal system with additional focus on affected limbs, and watching the horse work on a lunge line or under saddle. Depending on the severity of the lameness, the veterinarian may use diagnostic anesthesia to locate the location of the lameness. During this process, the veterinarian uses a numbing agent to desensitize certain joints or areas of the affected limb(s). Once the unsoundness resolves following diagnostic anesthesia, the anatomical location of the origin of the lameness can be determined. At this point, appropriate imaging in the form of radiographs and or ultrasound are performed, a definitive diagnosis is made, and a therapeutic plan established.
Mesotherapy is a treatment that utilizes the injection of pain relieving medications into the mesoderm, or middle layer of skin. The injections are performed with extremely small needles that penetrate the mesoderm only four to six millimeters, or less than one quarter of an inch. This treatment is useful for a multitude of painful musculoskeletal conditions, including injured or sore backs. During mesotherapy, the medications are delivered directly into the affected area and provide relief by reversing the pain and spasm cycle. Depending on the condition being treated, mesotherapy may be performed once or in a series of treatments.
Preventive care involves a combination of services that aim to prevent disease and aid in the early identification of pathological conditions in the horse. Important components of an effective preventive healthcare program include vaccinations, fecal parasite and sand evaluations, dental care and Coggins testing. The types of vaccinations administered to each patient are carefully chosen by the veterinarian, and are based on the individual horse’s immune and health status, lifestyle, occupation and environmental risks. An optimal parasite control program for each farm is designed through the use of regular fecal sample evaluations, minimizing the administration of unnecessary deworming drugs. Additionally, appropriate sand clearance products are recommended when indicated. Corrective and performance dentistry is performed with safe and gentle motorized dental equipment. Specialized dental equipment is available for use in miniature horses. Routine screening for Equine Infectious Anemia, commonly referred to as Coggins testing, is performed with the use of digital pictures in order to accurately identify the patient. A comprehensive Wellness Program is offered each spring which includes, but is not limited to, these services. The veterinarian may recommend enrollment in the Wellness Program or a specialized program based on each horse’s individual needs. For information, click on the Wellness Program.
The purpose of a prepurchase examination is to evaluate a horse’s suitability for its intended use. A prepurchase examination includes a very thorough physical examination consisting of auscultation of the heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract, evaluation of the integument, and an ophthalmic exam. The physical exam is followed by an in depth soundness evaluation including examination of the entire musculoskeletal system by combining palpation, visual assessment, observation under saddle, and flexion tests. Next, a neurological examination is performed. When indicated, additional testing including radiographs, ultrasound, endoscopy, and blood work are performed. Following the entire evaluation of the horse, the veterinarian discusses all the findings of the prepurchase examination with the buyer, addresses any questions or concerns, and a decision regarding the horse’s serviceability for its intended use is made.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is a therapy available for the treatment of desmitis (ligament injury), tendonitis, and severe wounds. This therapy uses the horse’s own blood to harvest a high concentration of platelets (cells normally present in blood that are produced by bone marrow and involved in blood clotting) in a small volume of fluid. The horse’s blood is collected in a sterile fashion and filtered through a specially designed unit that isolates the desired PRP. The PRP is then injected back into the same horse’s injured tendon or ligament or applied to a wound. Once injected or applied, the high number of growth factors present in the PRP act to speed up tissue healing and facilitate tissue regeneration. The use of PRP results in enhanced injury healing and a faster recovery.
Radiography is the process of evaluating the body with x-rays. In equine veterinary medicine, radiographs are most often used during lameness evaluations. The radiographic images allow the veterinarian to visualize the boney structures in the target area and provide information that facilitates reaching a diagnosis. Digitized radiographs provide instant images on the computer and have improved image quality over conventional radiographs. These digitized images can also be manipulated, thus highlighting various structures in question.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is used to facilitate the healing of soft tissue and bone injuries and to manage chronic musculoskeletal disorders. ESWT utilizes high energy sound waves that are transmitted to targeted areas of the horse’s musculoskeletal system. The administered shockwaves cause tissue responses at the microscopic level that result in improved blood supply and tissue repair. Some examples of uses for ESWT include suspensory ligament desmitis, tendonitis, stable stress fractures and splint bone fractures, navicular disease, hock arthritis, sacroiliac strains, back soreness, and ringbone.
Tildren is a bisphosphonate injectable medication used to treat degenerative bone conditions. In the horse’s body, there are two types of cells responsible for the maintenance of bones. Osteoclasts are cells that break down bone, osteoblasts are cells that make new bone. In healthy bones, osteoclasts and osteoblasts are in a state of balance. In diseased boney structures, osteoclasts are more active resulting in a state of bone loss. Tildren works by activating the horse’s own osteoblasts, shifting the balance to bone development. Tildren can either be administered intravenously or locally. When used intravenously, Tildren has the capability to improve all affected boney structures or joints. Some examples of conditions treated with Tildren include navicular disease, degenerative joint disease of the hocks, and osteoarthritis of the neck and back. This drug is currently available in the United States on a case by case basis and requires approval of a conditional use permit from the FDA.
Ultrasound is the process of evaluating the body using high frequency sound waves to produce images and is most often performed on soft tissue structures, internal organs, or developing fetuses. The sound waves are transmitted via a handheld transducer and are bounced or “echoed” off of the underlying structures. The “echoed” waves are received by the ultrasound transducer and compiled by the machine into a real time diagnostic image. One of the benefits to diagnostic ultrasound is that it is a non invasive procedure that can be used for multiple purposes such as diagnosing injuries or causes of illness. Additionally, it can be used to facilitate proper location of injections or biopsies.