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  Buddy's Trip to the MRI

Published: April 28, 2004 in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News
Byline: By E. Kirsten Peters, staff writer
Reproduced with permission of the Daily News

Buddy the horse didn't know what hit him. One minute the thoroughbred was being given a small shot. The next minute he was out cold on the padded floor. His four hooves were roped together and used to hoist him in the air, upside down, via an overhead trolley. In just a moment, he was slung on his side onto a padded cart. Within seconds he was being pushed down the hallway toward the magnetic resonance imaging machine.

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Buddy's trip to the MRI will be shown on national television next fall during the "Your Horse's Health" segment of the show "America's Horse," which appears on the Outdoor Life Network.
Buddy, who is owned by Washington State University, is lame, a common difficulty for horses.
Large animal veterinarian Kenton Morgan, the host of the health segments, was at the veterinary hospital at WSU Tuesday to film both Buddy's experience and the wide array of diagnostic facilities available for equine clients at the university.

Morgan works for the animal health division of Bayer Inc. One small part of his work is explaining common horse health problems to the general television audience. More of his time is spent educating the Bayer sales force about new medications for animals and giving seminars to practicing veterinarians on the same topics. The job is both rewarding and demanding.
"My family has two horses, but I call them pasture ornaments because we just don't get to ride them that much," he said.

Earlier in his career Morgan worked at a horse ranch outside Hagerman, Idaho. He now lives in the Midwest but spends much of his time traveling. He estimates that about 90 percent of his work is involved with horses and their veterinary needs. "His passion for what he's doing makes him good on camera, you can just tell," said Darin Watkins as he watched the filming in progress.
Watkins is a new public information officer for the vet school, but he spent many years in television broadcasting before coming to the Palouse. Morgan is modest about his role as a TV host.
"It has taken some getting used to and I'm certainly still learning as I go along," he said. In jeans and a hat, Morgan looks the part of a horse doctor. His experience becomes evident as he talks about equine health problems. "Colic is the number one killer of horses, but the problem is that colic is really just a symptom -- the condition can be caused by a dozen different things," he said. "It's similar with lameness. There's just a lot of different things that can cause a horse to go lame. It's amazing how the good Lord put a horse's foot together, and all that power and weight when they are running has to go through their bones and the soft-tissue around them."

Morgan and his production crew came to WSU to highlight the facilities available for horses at the vet hospital. "We have what was the first MRI for horses in the world here at WSU," university veterinarian Bob Schneider said. Schneider was taped talking with Morgan, explaining the different diagnostic techniques available in Pullman. "Ultrasound works well for some things, but we can't see through a horse's hoof with ultrasound waves," Schneider said. "The MRI is very useful for equine cases. We have been able to diagnose lameness problems, including ones we didn't know existed before the MRI technology." A proper diagnosis is crucial for the treatment of lameness. If a vet knows the horse is lame due to tendonitis, then rest can help. Other causes of lameness wouldn't be helped by resting the leg, Schneider said.

The MRI exam for a horse costs between $1,000 and $1,500, WSU vet Russell Tucker noted. But that price is cheap when compared to the exploratory surgery that used to be required to diagnose some causes of equine lameness. The vet hospital was happy to cooperate with the television crew because WSU sometimes has difficulty getting the word out to the public that the hospital is open for any and all animals in need of veterinary care.

"The biggest misperceptions are that people think we are only a research facility or they think you need a referral to come here," vet hospital spokesman Charlie Powell said. "But we are open to the public and we have people here literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

While Buddy the horse woke from his exam, the WSU vets made a diagnosis of a disruption or tearing of a ligament in his foot. "The MRI is the only way we have to diagnose a condition like this that's deeply buried in the foot structure," Tucker said.

Resting the foot is the treatment plan. Horses can't be put in wheel chairs, so Buddy will be restricted to a small stall for several weeks. Then gradually vet students will reintroduce him to walking. If Buddy's progress is good, he'll be back in the pasture in time to enjoy summer. And in the fall his doctors will be able to see themselves and Buddy on television.

Revised June 01, 2004     |     Printer Friendly Version

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