One such doctor is Dr. Scott Austin, a board-certified equine internal medicine specialist who recently joined the faculty at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. He brings his expertise—and veterinary students in training—to farms and stables throughout central Illinois to provide a range of primary care services for horses.
"My role is to maintain the health and welfare of my patients with regular wellness visits as well as to diagnose and manage illnesses and injuries and provide on-farm emergency care, when appropriate," says Dr. Austin.
Wellness care for horses typically includes vaccinations, parasite control, dentistry, and health screening. Lameness and performance issues, which affect horses at any life stage, also account for a large portion of the work of equine primary care doctors.
Dr. Austin will also be part of two upcoming educational opportunities that will bring area horse owners to him. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=L_pKzkC2P7g.) He will demonstrate lameness examination techniques at the sixth annual Horseman's Clinic (http://vetmed.illinois.edu/ope/horseclinic/), to be held at the University's Large Animal Clinic in Urbana on February 4. Other University veterinary experts will cover heat stress, nutrition, eye care, infectious disease prevention, and more.
On March 3 and 4 Dr. Austin and other veterinarians from the University of Illinois will be giving demonstrations in the Carriage Room in Barn 18 at the Illinois Horse Fair in Springfield (http://horsemenscouncil.org).
For Dr. Austin, communicating with owners is an important strategy in improving horse health. Just as routine wellness exams prevent problems or catch them in the early stages, establishing an ongoing relationship with a veterinarian and communicating regularly leads to healthier and better performing horses.
"Changes in body weight, for example, may signal the start of significant health concerns," explains Dr. Austin. "Gradual changes in weight often go unrecognized by owners who see the horse every day but can be recognized by the veterinarian on check-ups."
Progression of disorders such as arthritis and dental problems can also be evaluated at each veterinary visit, so that a baseline is established and trends noted for continuing treatment.
On-farm veterinarians such as Dr. Austin also play an important role in herd health management. By having a veterinarian evaluate the environment in which the horses and other animals are kept, owners can improve health management processes and decrease disease spread within a herd.
For more information about horse health, attend an upcoming owner education event and contact your local equine veterinarian.
Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement
University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine