If someone dropped an unlimited pile of money on your equine practice, what would you buy?
Ed Boldt Jr., DVM, of Fort Collins, Colo., specializes in complementary medicine, offering chiropractic and acupuncture, and treating lameness in performance horses. He would make an aqua treadmill his No. 1 purchase.
Treadmills are powerful tools for rehabilitation, training and exercise, Dr. Boldt says. Horses remain in contact with a solid surface, yet can benefit from water’s buoyancy that displaces almost 50 percent of their body wieght. The thrust of working against the water still provides adequate concussion to promote bone density and encourage muscle development while minimizing injury.
Horses use muscles similar to those they use on the ground, contrasted with swimming, which uses different muscle groups.
Working out in water also helps to cool muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints, Boldt says.
Prices for aqua treadmills start from about $80,000, set-up costs not included. With many models from which to choose, Boldt hasn’t decided on a specific model.
“I’ve looked at the literature on a couple of units,” he says. “If I ever won the lottery, I’d need to check out the units before I made any purchase.”
Boldt would like to have one of these units to help rehabilitate performance horses, which make up a large part of his practice. The aqua therapy helps them recuperate from injury and gets them back to work as soon as possible.
Kevin May, DVM, a partner at El Cajon Valley Veterinary Hospital in El Cajon, Calif., has a lengthy wish list.
If money were no object, Dr. May’s first purchase would be a “climate-controlled equine dental trailer with office space to work in and show clients radiographs.”
He’d like to allow himself and his assistants to get their work done out of the weather.
May would also invest in a mobile lab to perform all blood tests onsite, including Coggins.
“I’d [be able to] get the answers I need at the time I am seeing the patient,” he says, “as well as cut down on the number of trips to each patient. It would let us offer one-stop-shopping.”
May would also buy a thermographic imaging camera. With prices starting at about $6,000, these units can reveal abnormal temperatures of various areas of the horse’s body. This can be helpful in diagnosing such problems as ill-fitting saddles, unbalanced feet and lameness, possibly before clinical signs are obvious, he says.
The cameras detect minimal changes in temperature and let veterinarians focus on the most affected areas that cause lameness and inadequate performance.
Jack Easley, DVM, MS, Dipl. ABVP (Equine), a general equine pracititioner with a special interest in equine dentistry, would add a standing computed tomography scanner to his practice that would allow him to “get a scan of the horse’s head without anesthesia.”
Dr. Easley is the owner of Equine Veterinary Practice in Shelbyville, Ky.
The standing CT scanners cost about $500,000 alone, he says. There are few in the world; the ones he cites are in Europe. The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland; Rossdales and Partners of New Market, England; and the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire, England, are among equine hospitals that have the systems.
Sedated but standing horses move through a CT scanner, which uses a computer and a rotating X-ray machine to create consecutive corss-sectional slices of the body.
Such a highly sophisticated scanner would allow Easley to safely scan his equine dentistry patients, as well as interpret conditions of the skull, nasal passages, sinus cavities and cervical vertebrae of adult horses and full-body evaluations of foals.
“Being able to scan a standing, conscious horse has many advantages,” he says.
“Of course, once I bought the scanner, I’d have to build the building to house it in, plus pay my employees to perform the procedures,” he says. “I’d need to spend at least $1 million dollars.”
Lynn A. Caldwell, DVM, says she’d like to buy an magnetic-resonance imaging machine. “And then I’d hire people to help me use it!”
Dr. Caldwell is the owner of Silverton Equine Veterinary Services in Silverton, Ore., and is chair of the American Assocation of Equine Practitioners’ Dentistry Committee. Her practice focuses on dentistry and she is pursuing the Equine Fellowship program in the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry.
MRI is a valuable tool in diagnosing orthopedic injuries in equine athletes, especially when X-rays and ultrasound are unable to find causes for a horse’s lameness.
Various veterinary systems may accommodate large and small animals. The latest in magnetic technology allows high-quality head, neck, limb and stifle images. Low-frequency and high-frequency MRI systems are available.
Though Stuart Shoemaker, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, says renting a mobile MRI shared between several area veterinarians is a cost-effective method of providing more patients with MRIs, having her own MRI system is still on Caldwell’s wish list, should she somehow find herself with unlimited resources.
Dr. Shoemaker is CEO of MREquine Mobile Veterinary Imaging in Boise, Idaho. He estimates that setting up a building and a system would run about $1.5 million.
High-field mobile MRI units—contained in their own trailers—range up from $1.5 million, too, he says.
Veterinary CT scanners range from $250,000 to $1 million, according to sources at Universal Medical. Maintenance agreements can range from $25,000 to $100,000.
Ride the Shock Wave
May would also add an extracorporeal shock wave machine to his clinic.
Shock waves are transmitted through the skin and underlying soft tissues, depositing the energy of the waves within bone and soft tissues (as in high suspensory ligament tissues). Known benefits are analgesia and eventual increased rate of bone and tissue regeneration.
The ESWT modality is used in horses for treatment of characteristically slow-healing orthopedic injuries. Prices for these machines start at about $40,000; portable units are priced from about $50,000.
May would add a pulsating magnetic field machine and a Game Ready machine for physical therapy and diagnostics.
PMF machines use pulsed electromagnetic fields to induce electrical charges around and within cells. Improved blood supply increases oxygen pressure, which results in faster healing, improvement of metabolic disorders, muscular injuries and rheumatic problems. Pain and inflammation may also be reduced. Leg wraps, body blankets and hoof pads give horses maximum therapy.
As examples, the Curatron 2000 Equine System retails for about $4,200 for the standard equine and veterinarian therapy package, and the Centurion Equine system is priced from $3,750. The Magna Wave machine is priced about $20,000, May says.
The Game Ready Accelerated Recovery system provides non-invasive active compression and cold therapy for inflammation, soft tissue or orthopedic injuries, and post-operative care and recovery. Prices start at a little under $5,000 for a professional package.
One very practical investment, May says, would a battery-operated, portable X-ray machine. Prices start at about $8,000. He would also buy a top-of-the-line digital ultrasound laptop, with prices that start around $2,500 to $3,000.
May would also replace his GMC Jimmy 3/4-ton truck and vet pak; his current vehicle and insert have 320,000 miles on them. Bowie International’s top-of-the-line chassis-mounted Monarch mobile veterinary clinic is priced at about $21,000. A Ford F-450 pickup truck starts at MSRP $49,950. A Chevrolet Silverado 4WD CrewCab’s MSRP is $45,385. The 2012 Dodge Ram 2500 prices range from $26,012 to $42,154.
May would also like to find a way to create these products: a digital panorex radiograph machine and digital intraoral digital radiograph plates for horses’ mouth and teeth; a mobile CT scanner and/or MRI machine specifically designed for horses; a topical nerve-blocking device that did not require injecting a needle; and a hydraulic tooth extractor small enough to put in a horse’s mouth to extract cheek teeth.