Horse doctors muster along San Antonio’s River Walk

Feb 17, 2012

The 57th annual American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention was held Nov. 18- 22 in San Antonio, TX, attracting nearly 6,400 veterinary professionals, guests and exhibitors, ranking the meeting among the organization’s top five conventions by attendance. Veterinarians, as well as veterinary students, technicians, trade show vendors and guests from the U.S. and 38 other countries, convened for five days at the world’s largest continuing education event for equine practitioners.

AAEP, founded in 1954 as a non-profit organization, reaches more than 5 million horse owners through its nearly 10,000 members worldwide and is actively involved in ethics issues, practice management, research and continuing education in the equine veterinary profession and horse industry.

“This was one of the AAEP’s best-ever conventions for so many reasons.

Attendance was very strong,” said David Foley, AAEP executive director. “Dr. John Mitchell and the Educational Programs Committee put together yet another outstanding scientific program and the city of San Antonio rolled out the red carpet. I’m very appreciative of the outstanding work of both our staff and volunteers to make this event happen and run so smoothly.”

“Eighty thousand dollars was raised at the annual live and silent auctions held during the Foundation Celebration to help fund student scholarships, benevolence work and equine research.”

Incoming president, retired Florida racetrack practitioner John Mitchell, DVM, officially took the helm of the organization during the meeting. Through many years of steadfast service and leadership, he has provided AAEP with valuable insight into racehorse welfare, veterinary ethics and practice management. At his inauguration, Mitchell acknowledged the dedicated AAEP staff and volunteers while describing them as a group that is amazing to work with delivering awesome results.

This year’s meeting was an attempt to weigh somewhat more heavily on ‘how to’ information while not slighting emerging discoveries and innovations relative to equine practice. The ‘tip in the balance’ was a concerted effort to react and act on behalf of the membership via their needs and wishes surveys. One hundred thirty-seven lectures were provided as well as in-depth half day sessions examining respiratory diseases, integrative medicine, neurology and joint therapy. As a special innovation at this year’s annual convention, the program offered two half-day in-depth sessions on lameness during which as many as 1,000 audience members

used interactive keypads to respond to questions about lameness cases presented.

Lectures presented practical information and techniques on how to handle difficult cases faced by veterinarians in ambulatory practice, reproduction and wound management. Business education sessions were available as well as 71 table topic interactive sessions involving panels of experts in diverse fields.

Each year at the AAEP meeting, the Kester News Hour, a session updating the attendees on the latest veterinary research and equine news items, proves to be a highlight of the convention. A panel of three well-respected leaders in the equine veterinary profession took the stage and summarized more than 50 various topics.

Scott Palmer, DVM, hospital director and staff surgeon of the New Jersey Equine Clinic in Clarksburg, NJ, spoke about topics of surgical importance ranging from sinus disease in horses to the topic of wound treatment with manuka honey gel.

He summarized a longterm study of 200 horses that suggested more conservative treatments are effective in many cases of chronic primary sinus disease. Manuka honey, found in Australia and New Zealand, has been touted for its antimicrobial properties. Palmer said investigators found there to be no effect of manuka honey gel on healing of contaminated wounds on a horse’s forelimb. However, they found that non-contaminated wounds in the same location treated with this product healed faster.

Palmer outlined a recent publication’s results concerning the incidence and risk factors for recurrent colic in the general practice population. Investigators found the incidence of recurrence was high (36 percent) in this population and that cribbers and horses with known dental problems were at an increased risk of recurrent colic. He commented that this study confirmed a long held belief giving practitioners a baseline number to share with clients when treating medical colics in the field.

Important research and case reports were discussed by Patrick McCue, DVM, Coordinator of the Clinical Broodmare, Foaling and Embryo Transfer Services at the Equine Reproduction Laboratory at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. He summarized recent research involving mares, stallions, embryo transfer and assisted reproduction. McCue discussed new findings in the vaccination for EVA in pregnant and nursing mares as well as stallions. He reviewed some unique case reports and abstracts including a hospital case suggesting that premature lactation in the horse may be indicative with the loss of one fetus of a twin pregnancy. Rounding out the trio of speakers at the Kester News Hour was Stephen Reed, DVM, equine specialist from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY. Reed outlined a study of 3,493 endurance horses with 14,490 veterinary examinations occurring during endurance ride competitions. He stated that this study demonstrated horses with higher body mass index (Appaloosas and Quarter Horses) over 6 years old on longer rides as having the greater likelihood of being eliminated during these events.

Three important variables factoring into their removal from the competition included two veterinary parameters: prolonged capillary refill time and reduced gut sounds, both symptoms that can be associated with dehydration. A lack of a medical recording was the third variable, i.e. veterinarians may be hesitant to write down an abnormal finding, thus allowing horses with an impending problem to continue in competition.

Another topic Reed summarized was a study involving horses with heaves, a respiratory condition involving the lower airways. Researchers evaluated long term effects of corticosteroid treatment of this disease. This class of drugs is currently the most effective pharmacological treatment for heaves. Concerns, both by owners and veterinarians, have in the past included the possible impact that prolonged use of these medications might have on the immunity of horses. Their study demonstrated that use of the inhaled corticosteroid in proper doses for 11 months would not compromise the horse’s immune system to either pathogens or immunizations.

Given that equine practitioners also deal routinely with groups or horses congregated at barns, farms, racetracks and showgrounds, Noah Cohen, DVM, spoke about the importance of epidemiology in clinical practice. Epidemiology is the science that largely involves counting events or characteristics of individual members in populations relative to disease. Cohen is an epidemiology specialist and professor at Texas A&M, College of Large Animal Clinical Sciences (TAMU LACS) in College Station, TX.

He gave two compelling arguments in favor of this approach to understanding disease and disease outcomes. First, he related that epidemiology is advantageous from the standpoint of equine welfare because no disease has to be experimentally created or induced. Second, this evidence-based medicine places a premium on patientbased studies, a concept including everything from vaccination of healthy horses to veterinarians’ case reports of equine populations experiencing an outbreak of disease in practice situations.

Important ways in which epidemiology is relevant to clinical practice were emphasized by Cohen. He feels patient-based epidemiologic studies are the best source of information on which to make clinical decisions, select diagnostic tests, and assess optimal treatments, preventatives and prognoses. He also added this discipline is a science in which practitioners can participate because the vast majority of equine disease is observed in private practice.

Describing the year 2011 as having presented challenges more significant than any he had ever experienced in his lifetime, i.e. the recession, horse market, equine welfare and the unwanted horse, outgoing AAEP President William (Bill) Moyer, DVM , department head of TAMU LACS, emphasized that these challenges have been met with consistent expertise by AAEP’s membership. He related that during his tenure representing AAEP at industry events, both at home and abroad, he observed that this memberdriven organization continues to be held in very high regard as it evolves and responds to the times.

Whether in the lecture hall, trade show, convention center lobby, or in the cafes along the nearby San Antonio River Walk, AAEP provided something for everyone involved in the equine veterinary profession. An additional bonus? Horse doctors from colder climates had a chance to escape the snow and frozen ground, leave their heavy coats in their suitcases, and enjoy the 70 degree weather San Antonio luckily offered that week this past November. — Ginger Elliott, WLJ Correspondent