British first for University’s horse hospital

The University of Glasgow Equine Hospital will be the first in the UK to look inside a horse as it gallops at full speed.

Pioneering equipment will enable vets to closely examine the airways of a horse as it exercises, revolutionising diagnosis of disease.

The Dynamic Respiratory Endoscope beams back live pictures of the horse’s airways to vets, who can then asses the patient.

The equipment was acquired by the University as part of a joint venture with Mark Johnston Racing Ltd, one on the UK’s most accomplished racehorse training firms.

The instrument places the University’s newly-launched Performance Horse Clinic at the very cutting edge of assessment and treatment of horses.

Dr Patrick Pollock, senior clinician in equine surgery,  said: “Within the animal kingdom, horses are considered to be elite athletes because of their unique anatomy and physiology.

“Since they have the ability to perform at such a phenomenally high level, even the smallest change in their health can lead to a reduction in their performance. Minute, often subtle changes can be very challenging to detect.

“Many of the causes of poor performance are related to the respiratory system and a technique called endoscopy, in which a small camera is introduced through the nose and into the airways of the horse, is frequently used to diagnose disease affecting this area.

“To further complicate matters, many of the causes of poor performance can only be detected while the horse is exercising at high speed. Existing technology allows for a horse to be scoped while it runs on a treadmill. But this is expensive and potentially dangerous for the horse and treadmill operator. Also, horses must be trained to run on the treadmill, and it is very different to the normal conditions in which horses exercise.

“As a result a large number of animals may appear normal on the treadmill even although they have a significant disease.

“This new system has many advantages in that it allows horses to be examined in their normal environment under normal exercise conditions and is therefore more likely to result in the correct diagnosis. The system also eliminates much of the cost and all of the dangers associated with the treadmill and is considerably less stressful for the horse.”

Mark Johnston, one of the UK’s top racehorse trainers who has trained more than 2000 winners, has given his backing to the equine hospital.

He said: “The Dynamic Respiratory Endoscope will revolutionise what we know about horses when they are being fully exercised. Understanding the airway of a horse is the key to understanding so much more about them and how they function.

“The vets at the University of Glasgow equine hospital are some of the best in the world and the Scottish Performance Horse Clinic offers a fantastic range of services to get the best out of any horse.”

Professor Sandy Love, director of the equine hospital, said: “The Scottish Performance Horse Clinic is not just about cutting-edge pieces of equipment – it is about the specialists who work here. We have set out to recruit some of the most talented experts in equine medicine and surgery in the world and bring them to Glasgow.

“The Scottish Performance Horse Clinic will offer a complete range of diagnostic testing for all of the causes of poor performance including the respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Our team will be on hand for diagnosis and treatment of these diseases using the most up to date technology and facilities in the world.”

First published: 8 September 2008