Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In Death as in Life

This is a picture of two mares carrying fetuses that I ultrasounded last week. Which in and of itself is really no big deal. We do that all the time. The exciting thing about these conceptions is that the stallion has been dead for 13 years, the semen was collected and frozen 15 years ago, the mares have no genetic tie to the pregnancies they are carrying and the pregnancies were conceived in vitro using a fairly high tech procedure referred to as ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). The procedure involved harvesting unfertilized eggs (oocytes) from the ovary a donor mare. That egg (oocyte) is then placed in special media where it is manually injected with a single sperm cell. The egg then starts dividing, just as it would if it were fertilized naturally. Then after a couple of days of growing in an incubator, the embryo is implanted into an unrelated recipient mare that will care the foal to term and raise it until it is weaned.

The ICSI technique is probably best suited for circumstances where there is a very limited quantity of frozen semen available. Usually, this means the stallion is dead. The beauty of this technique is that multiple pregnancies can be obtained using a single straw of frozen semen. Under normal circumstances, several straw of frozen semen are required to get a single pregnancy. Through the use of this technique it is now possible to establish pregnancies from an extremely limited supply of semen.

The ICSI technique is also useful for situations where, for whatever reason, the mare is no longer producing embryos. This technique bypasses the oviducts and uterus of the donor mare. If the infertility is resulting because of a problem with these structures, this technique takes those problems out of the equation.

It is truly astonishing what is now possible through the use of these advanced reproductive techniques. Congratulations to Jim, Matt and Kathryn Bergren on the anticipated arrival of their foals next year.

You can read more at:

Below is a picture of the famed stallion Ruminaja Ali. He is the sire of the pregnancies discussed in this article. He died in 1997.

Monday, November 22, 2010

COW: Quarter Crack Repair

This is a collection of images showing how I like to repair quarter cracks. Quarter cracks appear in the hoof, usually as a resulf of too much heal compression, causing the quarter to bulge out. The repetitive loading and unloading of the foot, causes a crack to form at the point of the bulge. It can be challenging to get these cracks stopped because of the repetitive motion they sustain. Consequently the best strategy is to 'lace' them up. This repair method is one of the best ways to stabilize the crack so that it can grow out. Here is how it is done.

This picture is of the hoof at the start of the repair. The crack has been cleaned out with a small rotary burr. It is very important to get these thoroughly cleaned.

Here apposing eye hooks have been placed on each side of the crack.

The next step is to weave wire in between the eye hooks, lacing it up much like a shoe lace. This provides a very strong, stable repair. Also note, that an antiseptic wax has been placed in deep crevice of the crack.

Once the wire is placed, the 'eye' portion of the eye hooks is cut off. The remaining stem is peaned over to hold the wire firmly in place.

Finally, the patch is covered and held together with a hoof adhesive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Live & Learn

I spent a good part of the day today hearing about the some of the most current research projects being undertaken by the veterinary school at Michigan State. Here are some of the things I got out of it:

1. I am very glad that I no longer have to spend my days sitting in a dim room listening to lectures all day.

2. There is a lot of exciting and clinically relavent research ongoing within our state pertinent to improving the health of the animals around us and also improving the lives of us who share our world with these animals.

3. There are a lot of people at MSU who are smarter than I am, and are deeply passionate about what they do.

4. Michigan State is a great resource for those of us who care deeply about the health of our horses.

One of the most exciting (at least to me) presentations was concerning some very preliminary studies exploring the potential use of a drug called Ethyl Pyruvate for the treatment of endotoxemia in horses. Endotoxemia is caused by certain types of bacteria that produce and and release substances called endotoxins. These endotoxins cause severe deleterious affects on multiple body systems. Endotoxemia results when bacterial produced endotoxins gain access to the blood stream. Once in the bloodstream, they have profoundly negative affects of multiple body systems. Endotoxemia usually occurs in association with severe infections or a severely compromised intestinal tract. This is a condition that, as of yet, we do not have a highly effective therapeutic option for. Researchers at MSU are looking at the potential use of this drug called Ethyl Pyruvate that looks to be very promising for the treatment of endotoxemia.

This is the first time Ethyl Pyruvate has been looked at in horses. The intial studes were primarily focused on demostrating safety and that is has a measurable indended affect. All of this work is VERY preliminary as it is not yet available and there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered about its potential use. With that said, it is very exciting to get a glimpse of a potentially very useful and effective durg that may be used in the future to battle many of the negative affects of endotoxemia.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Magical Fruit

Here is a picture of a bean (not the kind that goes in chilli) that I harvested from a gelding today. This is not the biggest one I have ever seen, but it is close. The bean forms in a little 'pocket' at the end of the penis, called the urethral fossa. Stallions and geldings secrete oils that attract dirt and debris, the resulting mixture is referred to as smegma. If you have a gelding, you know what I am talking about. Usually they develop a deposit of this smegma that develops in the urethral fossa. The smegma that forms in this area is called a 'bean.' These beans can become quite large and impinge on the end of the urethra- much like holding your thumb over the end of a garden hose. Because of the adverse affects this buildup of smegma can have, it is advisable to clean the sheath periodically. How often it needs to be cleaned depends on the horse. Here is a link to a more indepth article on the topic.