Pet Points: Farm animal hospital gives horses first-class treatment




The New Bolton Center – the large-animal campus of the state’s only veterinary school, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine – is known in veterinary circles as an equine and farm animal hospital of excellence. It is located in Kennett Square, Chester County, about 37 miles from the School’s main campus in Philadelphia.

This is not only an education center for future veterinarians, but is a primary and tertiary care hospital for large animals. It’s also a vital resource for Pennsylvania’s main industry – agriculture.

I visited the facility recently and saw its newest building – an indoor arena for equine performance and lameness evaluations. The building has a special floor that provides optimal footing for horses. In fact, it is the only veterinary hospital in the U.S. with such a surface. Additional facilities at New Bolton Center are planned.

During my visit, my colleagues and I also viewed a fascinating video of the birth of a foal, made possible by a “Foal Cam” project implemented in February. More than 170,000 interested animal lovers in 120 countries tuned in to watch the pregnancy’s progress.

The pregnancy was made possible by an advanced reproductive procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which a single sperm is injected into a mature egg. The embryo was transferred into New Bolton Center’s mare, My Special Girl, last spring, and she gave birth to 104-pound colt named New Bolton Pioneer on March 29. Nicknamed “Boone” for short (after Pennsylvania’s own great pioneer, Daniel Boone), the foal suffered a few broken ribs after passing through a narrow birth canal. The foal is doing well and can be followed through a Baby Book Blog on the Penn Vet website: www.vet.upenn.edu/foalcam.

Gestation for a foal is about 11 months. Foals stand and nurse within an hour of birth and can trot and canter by the next day. Becoming mobile quickly is nature’s way of protecting foals against predators.

Horse demographics in the U.S. are changing. Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center is seeing fewer racehorses and more sport horses – those used for dressage, eventing and show jumping. These are a cross between a thoroughbred and a more rugged breed, such as a draft horse.

Horses are now are considered by many people to be athletic partners and companion animals rather than livestock.

During our meeting we heard about new research from an orthopedic surgeon and a farrier (expert on equine hoof care) on ways to prevent laminitis. This devastating condition occurs when the bone inside the hoof capsule separates from the hoof wall when the connecting tissues fail. When horses are treated for a fracture, laminitis is always a potential complication that can be fatal, as the other foot must support additional weight.

Onset of laminitis can occur for many reasons and is excruciatingly painful for the horse. It is the second-leading cause of death among horses.

Among other focuses at the New Bolton Center is animal welfare. Its swine facility brings state-of-the-art concepts to raising pigs in a more sanitary and humane way. The days of producing pigs in confinement are ending, 

The Swine Teaching and Research Center is home to 200 sows. Open pens are used to permit more freedom of movement. More than 50 farms have now adopted its system that uses modern technology, such as microchips, to monitor and manage feed consumption.

Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His column will appear biweekly. The intent of this column is to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you’d like addressed in Pet Points, e-mail petpoints@post-gazette.com. Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.

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