Posted: January 30, 2014
While for some it might seem like winter just won’t go away, it is already spring in the eyes of the equine world as foaling season began in January. At the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) Large Animal Hospital, students have the unique opportunity to be a part of this special time of year through the Foal Watch program.
From January to June — North America’s foaling season — OVC offers specialized equine services for clients in need of care for premature or critically ill neonatal foals while providing educational opportunities for students.
Students taking part in the Foal Watch program gain valuable experience and exposure to clinical insight, diagnosis and resolution tactics required to provide neonatal intensive care for foals. Patients and owners receive access to expert medical care, plus the 24-hour monitoring, attention and nursing that is critical during the first days of a foal’s life.
“Much of our work is with high-risk mares, and while the number of foals in Ontario has reduced due to recent changes in the industry, there is still a strong need for advanced care for ailing foals,” says Dr. Daniel Kenney, an internal medicine specialist in the Large Animal Hospital.Foal Watch volunteers stand by as their patient balances on his still-wobbly legs.
OVC takes a team-based medical approach, which is crucial in identifying, diagnosing and developing appropriate treatment plans on a case-by-case basis, Kenney adds.
“The Ontario Veterinary College offers top-notch care for mares and foals. Our team of veterinary technicians, board certified specialists including: reproductive, internal medicine, surgical, diagnostic imaging and anesthesia specialists, combined with the support of our graduate and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) students, and of course our volunteers, ensures we can create well supported, customized, comprehensive care plans that match individual animal and owner’s needs.”
Neonatal care for foals is one of many services offered by OVC for the equine industry, including Equine Sports Medicine and Reproduction Services focused on quality of life and health care of equine athlete and/or breeding horses. OVC specialists offer a wide array of reproductive services including advanced diagnostic evaluation, ultrasound examination, fresh chilled or frozen semen artificial insemination, embryo transfer, fertility evaluation, pregnancy monitoring and delivery.
Learning outcomes and experience for students and future students is also invaluable. Foal Watch is made up of volunteers that include undergraduate students from across the University of Guelph and student veterinarians. It has even attracted the interest of high school students eager to join the team.
“This volunteer program is a great opportunity for our future vets to become familiar with the processes involved in delivering critical care and gives great exposure to the demands of working within the equine field itself,” says Dr. Stephanie Nykamp, associate dean, clinical program.
Foal Watch is just one part of the broad range of experiential training, education and services OVC offers to support the equine industry.
“Although the horse racing industry has faced some major challenges over the past few years, horses, both racing and performance, continue to be a major economic driver within the province, particularly for our rural communities,” says OVC dean Elizabeth Stone.
“OVC will continue to play a critical role to support our local and provincial partners through offering cutting edge services to our clients and training to our future veterinarians - ensuring they have the necessary skills and knowledge to support the rejuvenation of our local industry.”
What Students Say:
“This will be my sixth year as a member of Foal Watch. I’ve held a variety of positions, from rookie to paid member to captain, and no matter where you’re at it’s hard not to get invested in the program. I often find myself wandering into the wards when I’m not scheduled, just to check on the foal and get updates on its progress! Though at this point, for me, it’s a paid position, it has never felt like ‘work’. I’m there, first and foremost, because I love learning about neonatal care and health as well as teaching the skills required to new members,” says Megan Perron, OVC Class of 2016.
"Foal watch is a fantastic opportunity. As a member for the past three years I’ve had the privilege of gaining invaluable and unique insight into the care of neonatal foals and the functioning of OVC. You’d be hard pressed to find the same kind of hands-on experience in this area at any other facility,” says Emily Zakrajsek, a third-year BSc student who hopes to enter the DVM program.
The OVC Large Animal Hospital offers:
• 24/7 emergency service including neo-natal intensive care
• Specialized facilities for infectious patients in our isolation unit
• Equine cardiology
• Poor-performance evaluations including cardiac, respiratory and neurological analyses
• Team-based medicine involving collaboration with OVC specialty services as needed
• Elective and emergency (day and night) surgery service
• Specialist supervised intensive care
• Detailed lameness and poor performance evaluation and treatment.
• Soft-tissue and orthopedic surgery
For more information on Equine Sports Medicine & Reproduction Services at OVC please visit http://www.ovc.uoguelph.ca/hsc
To learn more about the Foal Watch Program visit www.ovc.uoguelph.ca/foalwatch or find Foal Watch on Facebook www.facebook.com/foalwatch