McKee-Pownall Back To School Health Seminar Series

Seminar 1: Equine Acupuncture with Dr Meghan Waller, DVM


Equine Acupuncture is an effective, noninvasive, and integrative treatment modality that is becoming more often used in Western medicine. It involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles at specific points on the body (acupoints), where there are increased nerve endings, blood vessels, and lymphatics to help alleviate pain and target specific conditions. Inserting needles at specified points stimulates the nerve endings, sending a signal to the brain to interrupt pain or send different hormones and chemicals to the body. Direct needling affects the skin (dermis), subcutaneous tissue, muscle, nerves, and vessels/arteries. It can trigger the release of hormones/signaling molecules, regulatory proteins, and opioids.


Evidence Based Vet Acupuncture uses current knowledge of scientific studies, journal articles, and field trials to blend this ancient Chinese therapy with modern day veterinary science. It requires extensive and continuing training, and should be regarded as a surgical/ medical treatment to be performed by a licensed vet only!


A horse receiving Electro-Acupuncture.

A horse receiving Electro-Acupuncture.

Dry Needling
Using a traditional method of acupuncture, needles are inserted at specific points and stay in for 10-15 minutes. They may be stimulated by rolling, or moving the needle up and down.

Dry needles are inserted, and electrodes are applied. The level of intensity may be increased as needed based on the issues that are being treated. For example, a higher level of energy would be used for nerve paralysis.

Hollow needles are injected into a point for stimulation, and a solution such as saline, B12, sarapin, and homeopathics (Traumeel) may be inserted. The hollow needles are then removed, while the fluid continues to stimulate the specific acupoints. This is great for show environments, busy barns, or for horses who do not like to stand with the dry needles for long periods of time.

A horse receiving Aquapuncture.

A horse receiving Aquapuncture.

Laser Therapy
A laser is used on acupoints. This is a great method for needle-shy horses. Massage/Acupressure Can be performed by massage therapists, but does not provide any peripheral (nervous system) effects.

• Lameness/Musculoskeletal Pain (Back pain, muscle tightness/soreness)

• Nerve Damage/Paralysis (Spinal injuries, or facial nerve/radial nerve paralysis)
• Laminitis (Works to improve circulation and reduce inflammation while encour-aging hoof growth)
• Reproduction (Infertility or cycling issues)
• Colic, Motility Issues, GI Disturbances
• Would Healing/Skin Issues
• Endocrine Disorders (Cushings, IR, etc)
• Respiratory Issues (Recurrent Airway Ob-struction, Inflammatory Airway Disease)
• Behaviour/Anxiety

Acupuncture should not be used in an emergency situation. Critical treatment must be tried and true veterinary practices for emergencies such as colic and lameness.

The Vet will conduct a thorough exam on the horse, and collect information on the horse’s history. An acupoint exam of the horse is performed checking for heat, sensitivity, and firmness of acupoints and surrounding tissue. During initial treatments, light sedation or twitching may be needed until the horse be-comes accustomed to the needling sensation, but it is avoided if possible. Based on the history, palpation, and horse’s needs – a treatment plan will be determined for each individual. For most issues, three treatments are recommended about one week apart, with maintenance as required.

Please contact McKee-Pownall for more information on acupuncture as an integrative treatment for your horse!

Seminar 2: Veterinary spinal manipulation therapy with Dr. Tovah Caldwell. DVM



VSMT is a manual therapy used to detect and alleviate spinal subluxations and restricted joint motion. It is more than just cracking backs! VSMT is yet another integrative therapy that will help to relieve pain in your horse and improve their overall health and nervous system functioning!

Subluxation is a general term used to describe a reduction in the normal range of motion or subtle misalignment in a joint that creates ab-normal pressure and irritation of the nerves and soft tissues. It can be caused by every day wear and tear or acute injuries. Subluxations in the pelvic, back, neck and poll regions affect normal function of the spinal nerves that exit between each vertebra on both sides of the spine, interfering with the transmission of signals between the brain and the body.

By applying short controlled thrusts in specific directions, chiropractic adjustments help to relieve subluxations and restore normal joint motion and nerve function in the spine and limbs without forcing the joint outside of a safe range. It is generally well tolerated by the animal and is not a painful procedure.

VSMT can help to address many problems in horses such as:

• Back, neck, and sacroiliac pain
• Generally poor performance
• Uneven gaits and lack of impulsion
• Poor attitude

vsmt-pictureIt is also a very useful complement to traditional lameness therapies such as joint and sacroiliac injections, and to assist in the assessment of difficult lameness cases.

VSMT can help to reverse mild physical dam-age and slow the progress of degenerative conditions, which makes it an ideal, non-invasive component of an overall management strategy for athletes.

The benefits of VSMT are not limited to performance horses. Regular adjustments can dramatically increase mobility, comfort, and quality of life for pleasure horses, geriatrics, and those horses recovering from injury or illness.

For initial assessment or acute situations, a series of three treatments spaced 1-3 weeks apart is recommended. For routine health and performance maintenance, most animals do well when checked and adjusted every 4-6 weeks depending on their condition and competition schedule. Ideally they should be hand-walked or turned out on the day after their adjustment.

Please contact McKee-Pownall for more in-formation on Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy as an integrative treatment for your horse!

Seminar 3: Equine first aid with Dr Jenna Donaldson, DVM and Dr Samantha Molson, DVM.

First and foremost, it is important to know the normal behavior of your horse so that you can recognize the early signs and symptoms of injury and illness in your horse! The ability to take your horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration rate (TPR) will not only get them used to being handled, but will help you be aware of your horse’s base line readings. Knowing your horse’s base line TPR will enable you to detect potential problems quickly and recognize when to call a vet! Believe it or not, it is also important to be familiar with your horse’s manure. There are times when having too little, or too wet manure can be an early warning sign for much bigger issues!


Temperature Should range between 37°C – 38.5°.
Pulse 28-40 bpm on average. May reach 60-70 bpm during colic or discomfort.
Respiration 8-20 breaths/min.

Your horse’s TPR is the first thing a vet will check when they arrive for an emergency call. It is important to be able to take these readings yourself before you call the vet, this will help them determine the severity of the issue, offer some advice to follow while you wait, and assess how the situation has progressed by the time they arrive. For example, if your vet tells you to give your horse banamine, it is important to know whether or not the horse had a fever before the banamine was given!

Make sure you are aware of your vet’s contact in-formation, as well as the barn address in case of emergency. Know your horse’s history and base line TPR. Make sure you are able to tell the vet what happened, how long ago, and if anything has changed or progressed. It is a great idea to have a first aid kit on hand that includes items such as a thermometer, stethoscope, antiseptic, scrub brush, saline, gauze, needles, syringes, bandaging material, Animalintex poultice, Epsom salts, tape, gloves, vet wrap, etc.

Scenario #1 –
Colic refers to any abdominal pain, and can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. It’s recommended to always call your vet for colic, especially if it is bad and the horse is rolling, thrashing, or won’t get up. At the very least in a mild case, the vet can be made aware and instruct you on how to proceed. If a mild colic does not resolve itself in one hour, the vet should come out. While you are waiting, take your horse’s TPR, and make sure to be safe around a horse that is acting dangerous out of pain. Take away all food, but they can have access to water. If a horse wants to lay down quietly, that is okay. BUT – if they are rolling and thrashing it is important to keep them walking.

Scenario #2 Wounds
seminar-3-nail-in-footYour vet does not need to be called for minor wounds and cuts. However, they should be called if a wound will not stop bleeding, if it is near the eyes or any joints, or if the wound is deep and requires sutures (the sooner the better for a wound requiring sutures). If your horse has a nail in its foot, make sure to leave it in place if possible until the vet arrives. If you have any concerns with a wound at any time you should call the vet. While you are waiting for the vet, keep your horse calm and quiet. If you need to apply bandages to the leg to stop the bleeding, make sure to use LOTS of padding so as not to damage the tendons. Do not apply creams or ointments to the wound before a vet arrives, especially if the wound may need stitching.

For minor wounds that do not require veterinary attention, make sure to clean with water, saline, or antiseptics such as iodine or chlorhexidine solutions. Apply a topical ointment and apply a bandage if you can do so safely. If at any point a wound is not healing properly, make sure to call your vet.

Scenario #3 – Severe Lameness
The most common causes of severe lameness are hoof abscesses and cellulitis. Less common causes may be laminitis, fractures, or septic joints. You should almost always call your vet if there is lameness, even if your horse is lame at a walk, and especially if it is not resolved in 1-2 days. While you are waiting, keep the horse quiet in a stall and cold hose/bandage any swelling.

mckee6Scenario #4 – Ophthalmic (Eye) Emergencies
You should always call your vet for any eye is-sues, even if they appear minor. Eye issues can be serious and require immediate attention to prevent further damage. While you are wait-ing, keep the horse out of sunlight in a stall or small area. DO NOT let the horse rub his eye as they can do much more damage to the eye itself. Do not put any drops or ointment into the eye until you talk to a vet. Issues such as ulcers can be made very difficult to treat if steroid drops are administered.

Scenario #5 – Choke
The term choke refers to esophageal obstruction, and is different than in humans because they can still breathe. Choke is usually caused by feed material such as grain or hay, and pre-disposing factors include poor dentition, geriatric, or feeding dry feed such as pellets, hay cubes, or beet pulp. You should always call your vet in the case of choke as prolonged obstruction can result in scarring, rupture, or in severe cases aspiration pneumonia if feed goes into the trachea. While waiting for the vet, removeall food and water and DO NOT try to syringe anything down your horse’s throat! Doing this may further push food down into the trachea and cause aspiration pneumonia. Try to keep your horse calm with his head lowered, and take their TPR.

Scenario #6 – Diarrhea
Diarrhea can be a life threatening issue if not treated immediately. It is important to call your vet if it is very watery or profuse, if the horse is dull, off their feed, colicky, or has a fever. Soft manure for a day or two is not an issue, but a vet should be notified if it persists for several days or if the horse is losing weight. While you are waiting, take your horse’s TPR. Make sure to use gloves when handling your horse and wash your hands before handling other horses. Bring the horse into a stall if they are turned out, and remove feed if there are any signs of colic.

Scenario #7 – Overgrain (Grain Overload)
If you walk into your barn one morning to dis-cover that your horse has gotten into the feed room and eaten a lot of grain, the vet should ALWAYS be called. It is important to act quick-ly in situations when a horse has consumed too much feed. It can cause colic, diarrhea, or laminitis, and can be life threatening. While you are waiting for the vet, take your horse’s TPR, keep them quiet in a stall and remove all food (water is okay).

Scenario #8 – Nasal Discharge
Nasal discharge could be caused by bacteria, a virus, or an allergic reaction. It could be coming from several places such as the upper or lower airway, the sinus, etc. It may be accompanied by fever, coughing, or lack of appetite. Make sure to check all horses in the barn for similar clinical signs. It is common to see a small amount of nasal discharge after exercise, but the vet should be called if the discharge is profuse, thick, bloody, foul smelling, or lasts longer than 1-2 days. If multiple horses are affected, or the horse has a fever and is off their grain, make sure to call the vet. While you are waiting, quarantine affected horses, take TPR, wear gloves while handling affected horses, and wash your hands!

Scenario #9 – Allergic Reaction
Most commonly reactions are to vaccines, medicine, feed, bedding, and insect bites, but could be caused by anything. The most common allergic reaction in horses is hives or respiratory abnormalities. Hives may be located in one area of the body, or they may be everywhere. If your horse is having an allergic reaction, the vet should be called. While waiting for the vet to arrive, keep your horse in a cool and quiet area, bathe them in cold water, and check to see if any other horses have any hives as this could potentially narrow down the source!

Remember, when it comes to your horse’s health care, if at any point you are uncertain or concerned about a health situation, a quick call to your vet is the easiest way to get some advice and determine how soon the horse needs to be seen!

Mckee-Pownall Equine also has a great app called MPEQUINE that provides information on equine health care and veterinary medicine!

For more information, visit

Want great horse world articles like this sent to your inbox?


Join our Mailing List!

You're officially on the list!