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Good Stuff from AAEP

Published: 3/21/2012
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By Maddy Butcher

Every year, thousands of horse vets, vet techs, drug reps, and other horse industry folks flock to the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention.

Never been. But it sounds a bit like an academic and upscale Equine Affaire. There are round table discussions, seminars for new vets, dinners for Christian vets, vendors galore, and even a golf tournament.

Most of the topics have little relevance to us Regular Joes (unless you’re keen on the viability of cool-shipped stallion sperm OR perhaps pharmacokinetics of ceftiofur crystalline free acid).

We sifted through the presentations and summarized the most interesting and relevant:

Keynote speaker, Dr. Noah Cohen, asked the somewhat rhetorical question “Why does epidemiology matter?” and challenged his fellow vets to gather evidence and contribute their anecdotal farm observations and patient feedback to advance equine science.

Epidemiology is the study of diseases in communities. Farm vets provide care to communities and populations of horses. They see trends from one patient to the next and often the information they gather even informally is more valid than anything coming out of an insulated university setting. Farm vets rely on principles of epidemiology every day when addressing individual patients.

He established a certain hierarchy of evidence:
  • Expert opinions, experimental models, editorials, animal research of in vitro or test tube experiments all represent the lowest level of evidence because they are the least relevant to patients and might be misleading. 
  • Observational studies of patients like case control studies are in the middle ranks. 
  • Randomized controlled trials of patients are the highest form of clinical evidence. The most compelling evidence comes from combining clinical trials for a specific topic in either a systematic review or a meta analysis (integrating data from many independent studies).
It sounded very similar to the conclusion of Evidence-Based Horsemanship.
In it, Dr. Steve Peters writes: “Consider reports without bias and without ulterior motives...The best research involves large numbers…Consider those who’ve observed thousands not dozens of cases…
"The weakest information is based on a single case or a single expert’s opinion...”

Dr. Cohen said that in the end, individual practitioners must rely heavily on their own patient-based observations as they travel from barn to barn. He implored them to conduct research at this level in order to advance the body of equine science.

Dr. Steve Reed, from Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, reported that extended use of non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) is not good for the equine intestines. It damages the intestines’ mucous barriers and leads to a loss of normal barrier function.

In a related report, Dr. Jonathan Foreman told attendees that doubling up on NSAIDS to help a horse in pain is not a good strategy either. His team measured pain responses when horses were given phenylbutazone (Bute) or flunixin meglumine (Banamine) or both.

Bad for their guts. And beats up their kidneys. More ulcers and whatnot.
Also, Foreman implored folks to be patient. It takes four hours for those meds to provide their optimum impact for pain relief, he said.

Dr. James Kenney, of Clarksburg, New Jersey, reported that acupuncture may work better than Bute in relieving back pain. It relieved hoof pain, too. But when it came to gut pain, acupuncture was not so effective.

Side effects? Nearly none (except for a dent in the wallet.)

Stay tuned for article on renowned vet and acupuncturist Dr. Cynthia Reynolds of Searsport!

As a horse owner who gives her horses next to no grain or supplements, I was excited to read the research by Dr. David Ramey and Dr. Stephen Duren.
They followed the National Research Council’s nutrient requirements and found that plain and simple diets of hay and oats more than satisfied horses' nutritional needs.
The only substances that might be lacking for a normally healthy horse are salt and possibly selenium in certain geographic areas (like Maine).

“It may be that the best supplement is no supplement at all…Avoiding spending money on supplements is particularly appropriate for horse owners struggling to simply maintain their horses in this difficult economy… No benefit is achieved with hypernutrition,” said Ramey.
They looked at Platinum Performance, Dynamite, Grand Meadows Grandvite, Farnam Vita Plus and Vita Flex Accel.

View Reader Comments:

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3/21/2012 A Vet
Well said, I hope we are moving in this direction. Plenty of good info here.
3/23/2012 Arlene Walker
Just what I wanted to here -my horses are off grain now and want to add e to there diet -a good salt block is what I found for now -but would make me feel better if I had a hoof and coat supplement too !

"In the language of the range, to say that somebody is "as smart as a cutting horse" is to say that he is smarter than a Philadelphia lawyer,smarter than a steel trap, smarter than a coyote, smarter than a Harvard graduate - all combined. There just can't be anything smarter than a smart cutting horse. He can do everything but talk Meskin - and he understands that." - Joe M. Evans, A Corral Full of Stories