Dr. Josh Zacharias, DVM, MS, DACVS, DACVSMR says “Not all colic cases are the same. Some cases require surgery to correct.” If your horse is experiencing a painful abdomen or colic, our veterinarians should examine the horse to see if they are a candidate for surgery. The colic exam will include some or all of the following: auscultation (listening to the sounds from heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract) rectal palpation, passing a nasogastric tube (to examine stomach contents), abdominocentesis (belly tap), blood work, and performing an abdominal ultrasound to determine if your horse needs colic surgery. A colic with a displacement or impaction can sometimes be felt upon palpation but many colic surgeries begin as an exploratory surgery, to visualize why the horse is colicking. Once inside the abdomen, the veterinarian will determine if the horse has a compromised section of bowel, a displaced intestine, or is experiencing an impaction. Then the veterinarian will make corrections such as untwisting intestines, removing an impaction, or resecting damaged tissue.
Orthopedic fractures in horses are complicated to repair and heal more slowly than human fractures. Dr. Josh Zacharias, DVM, MS, DACVS, DACVSMR uses the latest techniques with internal fixation on most fracture repairs. There are two main categories of fractures: stable fractures and fractures that prevent weight bearing and are unstable. Stable fractures use bone screws to assist in healing, the unstable fractures require more in-depth surgery and bone plates will be used. Dr. Zacharias also performs other orthopedic surgeries such as sequestrectomy, which is the removal of dead bone, and correcting angular limb deformities in foals using surgical treatments such as periosteal stripping and transphyseal bridging.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery that allows the veterinarian to see inside a joint with an arthroscope. Dr. Josh Zacharias, DVM, MS, DACVS, DACVSMR uses various instruments such as rongeurs, and curettes to remove bone chips like osteochondritis dessican’s (OCD), and remove bone spurs from joints with arthritic changes. The most commonly affected joints that we perform surgery on at Countryside Vet are the fetlock, carpus, tarsus, stifle, and coffin joints.
NEEDLE VIEW ARTHROSCOPY
Needle View Arthroscopy is a standing diagnostic imaging procedure. Our veterinarians use a needle sized camera to explore joints while patients are minimally sedated. Needle scoping allows the veterinarian to detect lesions early and offer conclusive diagnoses without having to fully anesthetize the horse. Even the most extensive radiography and ultrasonography may not show certain soft tissue injuries in a stifle. For example, the Needle View Arthroscope can be used to diagnose meniscal tears, cartilage damage, and ligament injuries.
SOFT TISSUE SURGERIES
Cryptorchid surgery is surgically removing testicles that have not descended through the inguinal ring. Leaving a male horse intact with one or two retained testicles will result in increased levels of testosterone and typically, stallion behavior. Horses are typically discharged the same day as surgery.
Patients can present with hernias through their umbilicus, body wall, or inguinal ring. Hernia’s that enlarge rapidly should be treated as early as possible to prevent permanent damage from occurring. For example, if a loop of intestine slips through a body wall hernia and becomes strangulated it will require emergency surgery. Depending on the size of the hernia, surgical mesh may be necessary to bolster the repair.
A desmotomy is the cutting of the check ligament for flexural limb deformities in foals. A tenotomy is the cutting of the deep digital flexor tendon (DDF) used as a rescue procedure for foundered horses.
Tie back surgery is performed when the arytenoid cartilages become paralyzed, typically on the left side, instead of automatically retracting as the horse breaths. This partially blocks the airway and causes the horse to make a roaring noise as breathing becomes more labored. In surgery the arytenoid is secured in an open position preventing them from inhibiting the airway.
The Tie-forward procedure is performed when the soft palate displaces upwards to sit on the epiglottis limiting airflow to the trachea. Dr Josh Zacharias DVM, MS, DACVS, DACVSMR describes the surgery as “Tightening the engagement of the epiglottis to the soft palate reducing the incidence of dorsal displacement of the soft palate.”
EQUINE DYSTOCIA AND CESARIAN SECTION
Parturition in the ideal circumstances is a series of coordinated events. Stage one is where the foal gets in position, during stage two the foal is born, and in stage three the fetal membranes (placenta) are expelled. Dystocia occurs in stage two of labor. If dystocia is recognized, swift action in getting the horse to Countryside Vet is necessary. After palpating, the veterinarian will decide if assisted vaginal delivery (AVD) will work for your mare. AVD is when the veterinarian manipulates the foal when the mare is awake and standing. If AVD is not an option, Controlled Vaginal Delivery is attempted with the mare anesthetized. We use our surgery hoist to lift the hind quarters up, this allows the GI tract to move cranially to allow for more room to manipulate the fetus. If unsuccessful, the veterinarian will perform a cesarean section on the mare. The mare must be brought into our surgery suite to have the C-section. The foal will be delivered through an abdominal incision. Foals born with difficulty are at a higher risk for medical concerns and are monitored and treated in our ICU as necessary.
Horses can injure themselves on many things like barbed wire, rogue nails and trauma from other horses. In some cases, they will require veterinary intervention. Lacerations can be superficial and just involve the skin, or complicated and involve fat, muscle, joints, tendons and bone. Our veterinarians are always available to help you determine the severity of a wound. If there is a puncture wound or laceration near a joint, it is always best to have it seen as soon as possible by a veterinarian due to the possibility of joint sepsis. Other indications that a wound should be examined by a veterinarian would include heat, swelling, discharge, or continuous bleeding. Depending on the type and severity of trauma, the veterinarian may suture and/or bandage the wound, prescribe medications and give guidance for wound care during the healing phase.
Enucleation is the surgical procedure to remove the eyeball in addition to some of the connective tissues and glands. This procedure is usually done as a standing procedure with sedation and local anesthetic. Advanced cases or fractious horses can be placed under general anesthesia for the procedure. If a more cosmetic appearance is desired, an intra-orbital implant is placed. This procedure is commonly used for horses that have extreme trauma to the eye, perforating corneal ulceration, cancer, or end stage uveitis or glaucoma. Comfort level will increase once a painful eye is removed.