Carrying a smartphone or tablet is like having a spare brain in your pocket, one that helps you keep track of all the details in your busy life. At the barn, that device can also help you keep your horse healthy.
Health Data in Your Hand The latest tool for this task is Horse Health Tracker, a smartphone app released by Equine Guelph, the horse-focused education and research center at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. It’s designed to help you monitor vital health information for your horse.
The heart of the app is the Horse Health Check feature. It guides you through a 16-point health checklist that covers the horse from ears to hooves. Videos show you how to monitor heart rate and other vital signs. You can record results as often as you like, even several times a day, which makes this feature important for monitoring a sick horse.
Other features in the app help you determine and record the horse’s body condition score or estimate his body weight. A video library gives you quick access to all the instructional videos presented in the app. The app retains data from each health tool for 13 months and it will generate graphs so you can compare the results over time. Built-in email capability allows you to send the data directly to your veterinarian or others. You can also enter reminders for vet and farrier visits and other appointments. If you want, the app will sync the reminders with your smartphone’s calendar.
Horse Health Tracker is available for download at the App Store and Google Play. The basic version, which is free, allows you to track information for one or two horses. Upgrades ($4.59 to $11.99) can handle as many as 50 horses. Each horse is tracked separately, and you can add pictures taken with your device to the records. A user guide is online at equineguelph.ca.
Five-Minute Parasite Egg Counts Does your horse need deworming right now or can he wait until fall? Soon a smartphone may help answer that question, thanks to an innovative new fecal-testing system developed in collaboration with scientists at the University of Kentucky.
Current veterinary guidelines call for individualized deworming programs, using fecal testing to determine the best intervals between treatments and to gauge whether the drugs you’re using are effective. The tests look for the eggs of strongyles, ascarids and some other parasites in manure samples. You collect a sample and send it to a lab (directly or through your veterinarian), where a technician prepares a slide, views it with a microscope and manually counts each visible egg with a clicker. This work requires skill and training, and the results take some time. Generally you’ll wait a week to 10 days for the them to come back.
The new system, called Parasight, shortens that time to less than five minutes. This means that vets can use it in the field to get real-time information about parasite loads. The system includes a smartphone app, an imaging unit (a simple device that attaches to a smartphone) and a kit for prepping manure samples. Samples are first treated with chemicals that cause parasite eggs to glow under blue light. Then they are placed in the imaging unit and photographed with a smartphone.
The smartphone app counts the glowing eggs and emails the results to the veterinarian, along with recommendations for treatment. It can distinguish between different types of parasite eggs and is as accurate as traditional lab tests, the developers say. A companion follow-up kit, which gives less detailed information, is intended for horse owners to use in monitoring the effectiveness of treatment.
MEP Equine Solutions, LLC, the Lexington, Kentucky, company that developed the Parasight System, expects to have a commercial version on the market within a year. Last spring, the company was awarded a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help move the process along. The people behind the company include Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder Paul Slusarewicz, PhD, an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center who focuses on the commercial development of new animal-health technologies. MEP’s other co-founders are company President Eric Hauk, a businessman, and Technical Adviser Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, an international expert in parasitology research who is an assistant professor at the Gluck Center.—Elaine Pascoe
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Practical Horseman.
Over the past 30 years the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has funneled nearly $20 million into studies aimed at improving horse health. This year the effort continues with funding for a dozen new projects in fields ranging from laminitis to lameness diagnosis. A sampling:
Detecting lameness at the gallop: Kevin Keegan, DVM, of the University of Missouri, is developing an objective method (using a calibrated instrument) for detecting obscure, subtle lameness in horses at the gallop. The goal is a low-cost method that can be used in the field to increase understanding of lameness in racehorses.
Deworming and vaccines: While it’s not unusual to deworm and vaccinate horses on the same day, recent findings have raised concerns about possible interactions. Martin Nielsen, DVM, of the University of Kentucky and Gluck Equine Research Center, is investigating whether deworming causes an inflammatory reaction that affects vaccination.
Imaging injured tendons: Horses recovering from tendon injuries are often put back to work too soon and suffer re-injury. Sabrina Brounts, DVM, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is exploring a new method developed at the university to monitor healing in the superficial digital flexor tendon. The technique, called acoustoelastography, relates ultrasound wave patterns to tissue stiffness: Healthy tendon tissue is stiffer than damaged tissue.
Detecting laminitis early: Hannah Galantino-Homer, VMD, of the University of Pennsylvania, is investigating possible serum biomarkers (molecular changes in blood) that appear in the earliest stages of laminitis. The goal is to develop tests for these disease markers so that treatment can start when laminitis is just developing, before it’s fullblown and damages the foot.
Other new studies include evaluations of a rapid test for salmonella; investigation of how neurologic and non-neurologic equine herpesvirus 1 (EHV-1) spreads cell-to-cell in the body; an effort to map the distribution of stem cells after direct injection into veins; and more.
This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Practical Horseman.
Traditionally, veterinarians’ and researchers’ view of the equine intestinal tract has been limited. Endoscopy (inserting through the horse’s mouth a small camera attached to a flexible cable to view his insides) allows them to see only as far as the stomach. While ultrasound can sometimes provide a bigger picture, the technology can’t see through gas—and the horse’s hindgut (colon) is a highly gassy environment.
These limitations make it hard to diagnose certain internal issues and also present research challenges. But the view is now expanding, thanks to a “camera pill” being tested by a team at the University of Saskatchewan, led by Julia Montgomery, DVM, PhD, DACVIM. Dr. Montgomery worked with a multi-disciplinary group, including equine surgeon Joe Bracamonte, DVM, DVSc, DACVS, DECVS, electrical and computer engineer Khan Wahid, PhD, PEng, SMIEEE, a specialist in health informatics and imaging; veterinary undergraduate student Louisa Belgrave and engineering graduate student Shahed Khan Mohammed.
In human medicine, so-called camera pills are an accepted technology for gathering imagery of the intestinal tract. The device is basically an endoscopic camera inside a small capsule (about the size and shape of a vitamin pill). The capsule, which is clear on one end, also contains a light source and an antenna to send images to an external recording device.
The team thought: Why not try it for veterinary medicine?
They conducted a one-horse trial using off-the-shelf capsule endoscopy technology. They applied sensors to shaved patches on the horse’s abdomen, and used a harness to hold the recorder. They employed a stomach tube to send the capsule directly to the horse’s stomach, where it began a roughly eight-hour journey through the small intestine.
The results are promising. The camera was able to capture nearly continuous footage of the intestinal tract with just a few gaps where the sensors apparently lost contact with the camera. For veterinarians, this could become a powerful diagnostic aid for troubles such as inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. It could provide insight on how well internal surgical sites are healing. It may also help researchers understand normal small-intestine function and let them see the effect of drugs on the equine bowel.
The team did identify some challenges in using a technology designed for humans. They realized that a revamp of the sensor array could help accommodate the horse’s larger size and help pinpoint the exact location of the camera at any given time. That larger size also could allow for a larger capsule, which in turn could carry more equipment—such as a double camera to ensure forward-facing footage even if the capsule flips.
With this successful trial run, the team plans additional testing on different horses. Ultimately, they hope to use the information they gather to seek funding for development of an equine-specific camera pill.
“From the engineering side, we can now look at good data,” Dr. Wahid explained. “Once we know more about the requirements, we can make it really customizable, a pill specific to the horse.”
This article was originally published in Practical Horseman’s October 2016 issue.
For the past 6 weeks, my horse has been receiving Ozonetherapy to aid in his chronic back leg related issues- dermatitis (“scratches”), previous DDFT tendon laceration, a history of Lymphingitis, and the residual scar tissue from his DDFT injury. Due to his age (27), he lacks proper circulation in his hind end which does not help him fight his pastern dermatitis.
According to the American Academy of Ozonetherapy, Ozonetherapy is described as;
“Ozonotherapy is the use of medical grade ozone, a highly reactive form of pure oxygen, to create a curative response in the body. The body has the potential to renew and regenerate itself. When it becomes sick it is because this potential has been blocked. The reactive properties of ozone stimulate the body to remove many of these impediments thus allowing the body to do what it does best – heal itself.”
“Ozonotherapy has been and continues to be used in European clinics and hospitals for over fifty years. It was even used here in the United States in a limited capacity in the early part of the 20th century. There are professional medical ozonotherapy societies in over ten countries worldwide. Recently, the International Scientific Committee on Ozonotherapy (ISCO3) was formed to help establish standardized scientific principles for ozonotherapy. The president of the AAO, Frank Shallenberger, MD is a founding member of the ISCO3.”
“Ozonotherapy was introduced into the United States in the early 80’s, and has been increasingly used in recent decades. It has been found useful in various diseases;
It activates the immune system in infectious diseases.
It improves the cellular utilization of oxygen that reduces ischemia in cardiovascular diseases, and in many of the infirmities of aging.
It causes the release of growth factors that stimulate damaged joints and degenerative discs to regenerate.
It can dramatically reduce or even eliminate many cases of chronic pain through its action on pain receptors.
Published papers have demonstrated its healing effects on interstitial cystitis, chronic hepatitis, herpes infections, dental infections, diabetes, and macular degeneration.”
After doing research and speaking to one of my good friends, we determined that Chance’s flare up of Lymphingitis, after almost 3 years of not a single issue, could possibly be caused by his immune system’s response to Ozonetherapy. Let me explain.
Chance suffers from persistent Pastern dermatitis (“scratches”) since I purchased him in 2000. I have tried everything- antibiotics, every cream and ointment and spray for scratches, diaper rash ointment, iodine and vaseline mix, Swat, laser treatments, scrubs and shampoos, shaving the area, wrapping the area, light therapy…you name it, I have tried it. So, when we began Ozonetherapy to help break down the left over scar tissue from his old DDFT injury, I noticed that his scratches were drying up and falling off. We continued administering the Ozonetherapy once a week for about 6 weeks. The improvement was dramatic!
However, one day Chance woke up with severe swelling in his left hind leg and obviously, he had difficulty walking. He received Prevacox and was stall bound for 24 hours. The vet was called and she arranged to come out the following day. The next morning, Chance’s left leg was still huge and he was having trouble putting weight on it. I did the typical leg treatments- icing, wrapping. The swelling remained. I tried to get him out of his stall to cold hose his leg and give him a bath but he would not budge. He was sweaty and breathing heavily and intermittently shivering. So, I gave him an alcohol and water sponge bath and continued to ice his back legs. I sat with him for 4 hours waiting for the vet to arrive. He had a fever and wasn’t interested in eating and his gut sounds were not as audible. He was drinking, going to the bathroom, and engaging with me. I debated giving him Banamine but did not want it to mask anything when the vet did arrive.
The vet arrived, gave him a shot of Banamine and an antihistamine and confirmed that Chance had a fever of 102 degrees and had Lymphingitis. There was no visible abrasion, puncture, or lump… I asked the vet to do x-rays to ensure that he did not have a break in his leg. The x-rays confirmed that there was no break. The vet suggested a regiment of antibiotics, steroids (I really am against using steroids due to the short-term and long-term side effects but in this case, I would try anything to make sure he was comfortable) , prevacox, and a antacid to protect Chance from stomach related issues from the medications. It was also advised to continue to cold hose or ice and keep his legs wrapped and Chance stall bound.
The following day, Chance’s legs were still swollen but his fever had broken. The vet called to say that the CBC had come back and that his WBC was about 14,00o. She suggested that we stop the steroids and do the antibiotic 2x a day and add in Banamine. I asked her if she could order Baytril (a strong antibiotic that Chance has responded well to in the past) just in case. And that is what we did.
Being as Chance had such a strong reaction to whatever it was, I did some thinking, discussing, and researching…first and foremost, why did Chance have such an extreme flare up of Lymphingitis when he was the healthiest he has ever been? And especially since he had not had a flare up in 3+ years…plus, his scratches were getting better not worse. The Ozonetherapy boosted his immune system and should provide him with a stronger defense against bacteria, virus’, etc. So why exactly was he having a flare up? And that is when it hit me!
In the past when Chance began his regiment of Transfer Factor (an all natural immune booster), he broke out in hives. The vet had come out and she felt it was due to the Transfer Factor causing his immune system to become “too strong” and so it began fighting without there being anything to fight, thus the hives. My theory- Chance started the Ozonetherapy and his body began to fight off the scratches by boosting his immune system. As the treatments continued, his immune system began to attack the scratches tenfold. This resulted in his Lymphatic system to respond, his WBC to increase, and his body temperature to spike. Makes sense…but what can I do to ensure this is not going to happen again?
My friend suggested attacking the antibiotic resistant bacteria by out smarting them…okay, that seems simple enough…we researched the optimal enviroments for the 3 types of bacteria present where Chance’s scratches are (shown in the results of a past skin scape test). The bacteria – E. Coli, pseudomonas aeruginosa and providencia Rettgeri. The literature stated that PA was commonly found in individuals with diabetes…diabetes…SUGAR! How much sugar was in Chance’s feed? I looked and Nutrina Safe Choice Senior feed is low in sugar…so that is not it. What else can we find out? The optimal temperature for all three bacteria is around 37 degrees celsius (or 98.6 degrees fahrenheit), with a pH of 7.0, and a wet environment. Okay, so, a pH of 7.0 is a neutral. Which means if the external enviroment (the hind legs)pH is thrown off, either to an acidic or alkaline pH, the bacteria will not have the optimal enviroment to continue growing and multiplying. How can I change the pH?
Vinegar! An antimicrobial and a 5% acetic acid! And…vinegar is shown to help kill mycobacteria such as drug-resistant tuberculosis and an effective way to clean produce; it is considered the fastest, safest, and more effective than the use of antibacterial soap. Legend even says that in France during the Black Plague, four thieves were able to rob the homes of those sick with the plague and not become infected. They were said to have purchased a potion made of garlic soaked in vinegar which protected them. Variants of the recipe, now called “Four Thieves Vinegar” has continued to be passed down and used for hundreds of years (Hunter, R., 1894).
I went to the store, purchased distilled vinegar and a spray bottle and headed to the farm. I cleaned his scratches and sprayed the infected areas with vinegar. I am excited to see whether our hypothesis is correct or not…I will keep you posted!