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Services

Equine Internal Medicine Services

Equine Cancer Therapy

Our internal medicine service works carefully with our equine surgeons, radiation oncologists and oncologists to provide care for horses with cancer. We can provide a diagnosis with examination of cells by our onsite cytologists or biopsies read by our own specialist veterinary pathologists. The most common tumors in horses are sarcoids, squamous cell carcinomas, melanomas, or lymphoma. Treatment options for various types of cancer are combinations of surgery, liquid nitrogen freezing, cisplatin beads or carboplatin injections, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The use of chemotherapy for horses is becoming increasing common and we are currently performing research with the Harrison School of Pharmacy to determine the best doses for horses. The new canine melanoma vaccine is also being used at Auburn University to treat horses with melanomas. It is only available through veterinary oncologists.  Auburn University is also one of the world leaders in the use of radiation therapy.  There are only 6 institutions that can perform gamma radiation via a linear accelerator on large animals. Auburn was one of the first, and we receive referrals for radiation therapy from all over the country. 

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Equine Cardiology

The most common heart problem in horses is murmurs, and they can be found in all types of horses: athletes, pasture pets, broodmares, and foals.  A physical exam, an ECG, and an echocardiogram are the tools we use to evaluate horses with heart murmurs and determine whether or not the murmur is significant.  Horses can also develop arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation that need evaluation and treatment.   Sometimes horses with intermittent arrhythmias may need 24-hour Holter monitoring, and internal medicine can coordinate that as well.  

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Equine Colic

Colic (abdominal pain) can have many causes and may resolve after assessment and treatment by your local veterinarian. However, colic can also be a life threatening emergency requiring oral or intravenous fluids and sometimes emergency surgery. Emergencies are seen at Auburn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.  A referral by your veterinarian is welcomed but is NOT required. Depending on the signs, evaluation of a horse with colic by the internal medicine specialists, residents, or emergency clinicians may include a physical examination, blood work, siphonage of the stomach, abdominocentesis (collection and examination of fluid from the abdominal cavity), rectal examination, and abdominal ultrasound. If indicated, gastroscopy can be performed to view the stomach for gastric ulcers or abdominal radiographs can be used to detect intestinal stones (enteroliths) or sand accumulation. Your horse will be treated and monitored by our dedicated technicians, and surgery can be performed if needed at any time. Less than half of the colic cases referred to Auburn actually require surgery, though many require intravenous fluids and around-the-clock care to speed their recovery. 

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Equine Computerized Lameness Exam

Our lameness experts can usually determine the site of pain causing lameness by physical examination of the horse. The site of pain can often be localized using a hoof tester, manipulative tests and joint or nerve blocks. Many times, however, the lameness is too subtle or involves more than one limb to trust subjective evaluation of the response to these tests. We have computerized devices that are able to accurately tell us which limb the horse is lame in, the degree of lameness and the response of the horse to various test used to localize the site of pain.  One of these instruments is the Lameness Locator® which is an inertial sensing device that measures asymmetry of torso motion to objectively quantify the degree of lameness. Our experience with the lameness Locator allows us to pick up a subtle lameness during a prepurchase examination and allows us to accurately diagnose the site of pain during evaluation of a horse with a subtle or complicated lameness. We have found that many horses that appear to have an obvious lameness involving a particular limb actually have pain in another limb and that the obviously lame limb is merely compensating for pain in another limb. 

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Equine Diarrhea

Acute onset of diarrhea in horses is a medical emergency.  It is very important that horses are quickly evaluated and treated to prevent profound dehydration and cardiovascular problems.  Diarrhea in horses can be caused by many different types of health problems that cause the horse’s colon to become unable to function properly (i.e. the colon cannot absorb the intestinal fluid as it normally would).  Common causes include infections with Salmonella or Clostridium bacteria, sand ingestion, parasites, toxicity due to the administration of NSAIDs (bute or flunixin), secondary to administration of antibiotics, ingestion of cantharidin (a toxin in blister beetles found in alfalfa hay), cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease.  Auburn offers complete care for horses with diarrhea.  These patients are housed in a specialized isolation care unit to prevent the spread of infectious diseases to the other patients, and are treated hourly as prescribed by the attending equine internal medicine specialist.

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Equine Endocrine Disorders

The most common endocrine problems in horses are pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) (also known as Equine Cushing’s disease) and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS or insulin resistance).  Horses with PPID often have long, curly hair coats, a delay in coat shedding, laminitis (founder), and chronic infections.  Horses with obesity and EMS can have performance problems, breeding problems, and laminitis.  The internal medicine specialists at Auburn have conducted many clinical studies about the diagnosis of endocrine diseases in horses and are leaders in the field. Our endocrine diagnostic laboratory can measure ACTH, insulin, T3, T4, cortisol and other hormones. We have determined seasonal reference ranges for several hormones and consultations with our equine medicine specialists can be arranged for veterinarians who use our laboratory for their own samples. We can help you with diagnosis of these problems and treatment strategies so that you can enjoy your horse through the geriatric years.  

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Equine Muscle Disease

The Auburn University internal medicine service can evaluate muscle diseases in your horse. The main causes of chronic “tying-up” are recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER) and polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM).  Genetic testing, exercise testing, muscle biopsy, and blood work are all diagnostic tests that we can perform to evaluate these conditions. We can also help you screen for other genetic muscle diseases such as HYPP or GBED (glycogen branching enzyme deficiency). 

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Equine Neonatal Medicine

If a foal appears weak, depressed, has decreased nursing, is lame, has swollen joints, a fever, diarrhea, or colic then it requires immediate veterinary attention. With rapid and intensive care, sick foals have an excellent survival rate. At Auburn we have a wonderful team of highly skilled veterinary technicians, senior veterinary students, foal sitters and residents to provide around-the-clock care for sick foals. If needed, they can be fed every hour and given intravenous fluids, antibiotics and other medications. Diagnostics such as ultrasound to examine the umbilicus or radiographs to look for joint problems or angular limb deformities are also available.  Our internal medicine specialists, critical care specialists, and surgeons work together to ensure all foals receive the best possible care. 

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Equine Neurological Disease

Neurological diseases in horses are varied and diagnosis can be complicated.  Neurological problems can be associated with central nervous system abnormalities such as traumatic injury, EPM (equine protozoal myelitis/myeloencephalitis), viral encephalitis (West Nile virus, equine herpesvirus, eastern/western encephalitis), degenerative diseases, rabies, osteoarthritis or meningitis.  Problems in other body systems can also cause neurological symptoms.  Diseases of the liver, kidneys, or musculoskeletal system can directly affect the nervous system or cause signs that mimic neurological disease.  Auburn offers thorough neurological examinations by specialists in equine internal medicine to help determine if the horse’s signs are due to problems with the central nervous system, or a disease in another body system.  Diagnostic tests available at Auburn include MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan (computed tomography), nuclear scintigraphy, EMG (electromyography), BAER testing, serum antibody tests (for EPM, EEE, WEE, EHV-1), spinal radiography, myelography, intra-articular injection of facet joints, skull radiographs, and endoscopy of the guttural pouches.  Treatment of these patients can be labor intensive and long in duration.  Auburn offers short and long term therapy for neurological patients in climate-controlled stalls with padded walls, or if necessary, with the assistance of specially designed slings for horses.

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Equine Ophthalmology

Horses commonly have problems with their eyes: tearing, discharge, pain, ulcers, equine recurrent uveitis (moon blindness), just to name a few.  These problems are often managed with topical medications and clear up quickly, but sometimes eye problems become more complicated. The Auburn internal medicine service works with our ophthamologists (Dr. Meredith Voyles and Dr. Katie Diehl) to manage horses with eye problems.  Treatment may include placement of a medication delivery system (subpalpebral lavage) for you to treat more easily at home or around the clock care in the hospital by our capable students and technicians to make sure that infections are treated aggressively.  The ophthamologists can also perform surgeries for horses with complicated eye problems such as conjunctival or corneal grafts, cyclosporine implants for uveitis, cataract surgery, and surgical debridement of corneal squamous cell carcinoma. Adjunctive radiation therapy for squamous cell carcinoma is another service provided by Auburn’s board-certified radiologists specializing in radiation therapy.  

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Equine Respiratory Disease

Auburn University is equipped to diagnose and treat many different causes of respiratory disease in horses.  The equine internal medicine service specializes in evaluation of horses with cough, nasal discharge, bronchopneumonia and pleuropneumonia, blood from the nose, poor performance, strangles infection, or other problems of the respiratory system.  Each horse is evaluated with a complete physical/respiratory examination and rebreathing examination (if appropriate), and a diagnostic plan is created for that patient.  Diagnostic evaluation may include arterial blood gas, transtracheal wash, bronchoalveolar lavage, pulmonary biopsy, thoracoscopy, upper or lower airway endoscopy, thoracic radiographs, thoracic ultrasonography or thoracocentesis.  Once the diagnosis is made, the hospital is equipped to treat and monitor the patients for short and long term care.  Climate-controlled stalls are available in the intensive care unit with intranasal oxygen supplementation available, therapy with inhaled medication if necessary, and hourly monitoring.

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Equine Weight Loss

Weight loss in horses can be a challenging problem to solve.  Many health problems in horses can affect the horse’s appetite or the horse’s ability to use the nutrients from the diet.  The equine internal medicine specialists at Auburn use extensive examinations and diagnostic tests to determine the primary cause for a patient’s weight loss.  Common diagnostic evaluations include physical examination, oral examination, pharyngeal/esophageal/gastric endoscopy, abdominal and thoracic ultrasound examination, abdominocentesis, rectal examination, rectal mucosal biopsy, rebreathing examination, abdominal radiographs, laparoscopy, exploratory celiotomy, glucose absorption testing, intestinal parasite analysis, urinalysis, complete blood count, serum chemistry profile, etc.  Each patient is evaluated and an individual diagnostic plan is outlined to maximize diagnostic outcome.

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Poor Equine Performance

Performance problems in horses can sometimes be tricky to figure out.  Diagnostic tests that are often used in horses with performance problems include a thorough physical examination, gait and lameness evaluation, blood work, respiratory examination (endoscopy, radiographs, ultrasound, bronchoalveolar lavage), and cardiac examination.   A team approach between the lameness and internal medicine specialists at Auburn is a key way that we are able to unravel the cause of poor performance in your horse.  

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