Bulletin Board Series
Physical Therapy for Horses
New treatments stimulate healing and get
injured horses back on their feet
E quine Physical Therapy, a new service at UC Davis, engages
specialized equipment and procedures from human medicine
to treat horses recovering from surgery or injury.
the repair of stress fractures, a particular problem in
race horses. “The good news for horses with stress
fractures,” says Dr. Snyder, “is that the fractures are
The centerpiece of the physical therapy system at the healing at least as fast as if they had surgery, and
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital is a unique unit that now we can avoid putting the horses under general
delivers high pressure pulses of acoustic wave energy to injured anesthesia.”
tendons, ligaments and bones. The process, known as The UC Davis clinicians are also using other
“extracorporeal shock wave therapy” (ESWT), is used in specialty technologies to promote healing at the cellular
human medicine to break up kidney stones without surgery level with less reliance on invasive procedures or drugs.
(a procedure known as lithotripsy). In addition to ESWT, treatments such as photon therapy
The ESWT unit is coupled with ultrasonographic (therapeutic laser), electromagnetic systems and
technology that enables its operator to visualize the exact therapeutic ultrasound ease pain—animals can resume
region of acoustic stimulation. mild activity during recovery without the complications of
Jack Snyder, chief of equine lameness and surgery at the long confinement.
School of Veterinary Medicine, says, “This is the only system Veterinary researchers have begun to formally evaluate these
in North America that can deliver a high level of energy to an tools, which Dr. Snyder says, “offer huge potential to expand our Electromagnetic
unanesthetized, standing horse—it has the capability to promote knowledge of rehabilitation for the sport horse.” impulses for systemic
anti-inflammatory pain relief
healing and provide acute pain relief for deep lesions.” For more news about advances in veterinary medicine, visit the UC Davis
are delivered by an apparatus
Dr. Snyder says, “The results are encouraging. We are seeing School of Veterinary Medicine Web site (http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu). contained in the horse blanket. The electro-
ultrasound evidence that healing time for soft tissue injuries is re- magnetic field, which feels warm and pleasant
duced, in some cases up to 50 percent, after treatment with acoustic wave to a human, says animal health technician
energy versus surgery.” The therapy is also bringing about good results in Chris Macri, also stimulates endorphin release.
The blanket might be applied once or twice a day
for half an hour to treat a sore back, or for 20
minutes to decrease inflammation
shock wave therapy
in the tendon area.
(ESWT) promotes healing
and provides acute pain relief for
deep lesions. Electromagnetic pulses
are applied to the injured leg of a
competition horse by sliding a probe over The area of stimulation is
the surface of the leg. Horses that have visualized on a monitor—
been lame as long as two or three years crosshairs superimposed on an
are able to recover, and in many cases, ultrasonogram indicate exactly
healing and rehabilitation time has where ESWT pulses are
been decreased by one-third being delivered.
A former world-class equine athlete was referred to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Acoustic wave energy is delivered in pulses to the injured following a nerve injury. The mare was paralyzed in the right foreleg and unable to stand.
suspensory ligament of an international grand-prix stallion As a result of physical therapy while suspended for several weeks in a specialized equine sling,
during extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT). Dr. Jack the mare was able to walk without having surgery, and while under treatment, delivered a
Snyder is pictured above with animal health technician Jaymi healthy foal. Therapy with electrical stimulation also helped the mare regain lost muscle mass
Rose and private practitioner Karen Blumenshine, DVM. in the right shoulder.
Veterinary Medicine News, UC Davis, Spring/Summer 2000
Southern California Service Helps Solve Problem
Behavior in Animals
nimals are sometimes referred
to the behavior clinic showing Nikko, a family Akita, reacts to noises
very strange and inexplicable such as rain and a home sprinkler sys-
problems. Or they react with great fear tem by destroying parts of the house.
to things that humans take for granted. Patrick Melese, chief veterinarian of the
Dogs, for instance, can be afraid of Behavior Service, is working with NIkko,
who is on a “sit” command with the
pager noises, camera lens noises, jet
help of a halter, to help the dog focus.
aircraft and even hot air balloons. Nikko’s owner is learning how to direct
Pat Melese, chief of the UC Veteri- the dog’s attention in order to implement
nary Medical Center (UCVMC) Behav- behavior modification steps.
ior Service in San Diego, says “We see
about three dogs to one cat in a wide
range of cases including aggression,
separation anxiety, fearfulness or
ing like Sherlock Holmes—first you that pet owners talk to their veterinari-
have to solve a mystery of domestic an about a developing behavior prob-
animal behavior in residential quarters. lem or get a referral before the problem
You take a careful history and begin to becomes severe.
“The goal is not to be a lion gather clues to determine the likely Dr. Melese’s objective is to help peo-
tamer, but to carry out an intel- cause of the behavior.” Lab work also ple and their animals maintain strong
may be indicated to rule out medical bonds of friendship and affection for
lectual, evaluative process and problems. each other and to prevent pets from
recommend a course of action.” “The goal,” says Dr. Melese, “is not losing their homes due to problematic
to be a lion tamer, but to carry out an behaviors.
intellectual, evaluative process and rec- For more information about the
ommend a course of action.” UCVMC Behavior Service or to make an
Dr. Melese, who has been a behav-
Treatment requires a bit of coun- appointment, pet owners can call (858)
iorist for 14 years, says, “Most of the
selling—which is not a normal part of 759-6837. The clinic is based in Rancho
cases involving dogs are problems of
the veterinary curriculum—to get a Santa Fe, located in north San Diego
aggression toward other dogs or toward
family system to alter its behavior in County, and patients are also seen at pet
people. We see some aggressive cats,
order to change what happens to the specialty centers in La Mesa and San
but mostly cats come in because of
pet. People have to be motivated to Diego. The UCVMC is a joint venture
elimination problems in the home.”
consider making changes in how they between the UC Davis School of
One cat reacted to his own reflec-
interact with their pet in order to teach Veterinary Medicine and UC San Diego
tion—he became aroused and aggres-
the pet new behaviors. to better serve Southern California.
sive in a room with mirrors—and was
Some families do quite well with
a danger to his owner. Dr. Melese had
their pet, considering that animals
the owner bring a mirror to the exam
often develop behavior problems over
room, but the cat totally ignored it!
a long period of time before they are
Once the behavior was shown to be
brought in. Dr. Melese recommends
specific to the home environment, an
investigation brought out the reason
for the cat’s aggression—he associated
stray cats viewed outside with mirrors
inside the room. The owner was able to Behavior Service resident Laurie
learn handling techniques that could Bergman greets Midnight, a family cat
calm the cat down. whose problem behavior is elimination
“A behavior may appear to be very in places other than the litterbox.
strange,” says Dr. Melese. “Treating
such a case sometimes requires think-
8 Veterinary Medicine News, UC Davis, Spring/Summer 2000