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New equine physical therapy service at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine promotes more complete, less invasive remedies for lameness in horses

March 29, 2000

A new Equine Physical Therapy Service at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine provides expanded follow-up for horses recovering from leg and back surgery or suffering from lameness due to racing or other sport injuries. The veterinary team employs established procedures and specialized equipment to deliver warmth and stimulate a healing blood flow to delicate leg structures, including bones, from outside the body.

The centerpiece of the system is a unique unit that delivers high pressure pulses of acoustic wave energy to injured tendons, ligaments and bones in horses. The process, known as "extracorporeal shock wave therapy" (ESWT), is used in human medicine to break up kidney stones without surgery (lithotripsy). In horses, ESWT reaches and stimulates internal structures without anesthesia, reducing the time required per session and lowering risks incurred in anesthetizing a large animal.

According to Jack Snyder, equine surgeon at the School of Veterinary Medicine, "This system is the only one in North America that can deliver this level of energy in the awake horse." Other specialty equipment includes "cold" laser, electromagnetic pulsing, and therapeutic ultrasound instruments.

Promoting healing at the cellular level with less reliance on invasive procedures or drugs, according to Snyder, makes the use of such instruments a valuable tool in modern rehabilitation. Treatments ease pain so that animals can resume mild activity needed for full recovery without the complications of long confinement. Veterinarians also see promise for the repair of stress fractures, a particular problem in race horses.

As they help horses, UC Davis veterinary faculty teach professional students to apply the new techniques in well-rounded equine veterinary care. Researchers also have begun to formally evaluate these new tools and methods, Snyder says. "Working with these horses offers huge potential to contribute to our knowledge of rehabilitation for the sport horse. We are seeing X-ray evidence that healing has taken place-in less time than with traditional means."

For more information or to make appointments:
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Large Animal Clinic: (530) 752-0290
Media contact: Jack R. Snyder, DVM, (530) 752-8513