Thank you for calling McKee-Pownall Equine Services

Thank you for calling McKee-Pownall Equine Services – or in this case, checking out our website!  My name is Laura.  You may have spoken with me on the phone or corresponded with me via email.  I am a part of the McKee-Pownall team, but not necessarily in a way that jumps to mind when one thinks of a veterinary practice.

I answer the phone and perform administrative tasks.  To some – it may not seem that exciting, but I love it.  I love the client interaction.  I love the wealth of knowledge that I have access to.  And I love the satisfaction of a good client/patient outcome. While a good patient outcome 100% of the time would be fantastic, it is not realistic.  Through all the highs and lows of horse ownership, the one thing that we can provide as a constant is excellent customer service.

Here is an example of where I was let down by less than stellar customer service. I had put my money in a bank that had wooed me with a points system and a slew benefits for switching to their services.  On paper it was a great deal, and the employees were all pleasant to deal with.

Then I was faced with the items I did not read in the fine print.  To benefit from the points system, the bank account HAD to be applied for online.  So, I applied online; however, a whole new bank account was created for me.  Now I had 2 bank accounts that served the exact same purpose – and would have to pay the same monthly fee.  I closed the initial account, only to have complications with the automatic payments.  While the request had been made in the system, the process was never completed, which resulted in some missed payments.  The bank was more than happy to charge me some administrative fees, for their error.  After resorting to (what I like to call) “Squeaky Wheel Syndrome”, the issue was sorted out: after 5 weeks, and one more series of missed payments.

I was the one who had to follow up, and I wasn’t very happy about it.

All that this bank had to do to make this a great client experience was:  Take the time to resolve the issue correctly, while keeping me updated.

Simple right?

It seems that the societal norm for customer service is excessive hold times, multiple transfers, speaking to a robot and falling short on expectations set.  I’m not the only one with a story similar to the one above.

Armed with personal experiences, the Customer Service Representatives at McKee-Pownall are given the opportunity to put themselves in the client’s shoes.  The guidelines are easy – Don’t surprise, don’t confuse and keep the communication open. Our mandate is to be the advocate for the client. We know how stressful a visit from the vet can be so we try to make the experience a positive one.

McKee-Pownall Equine Services believe that excellent support staff is a key element to the overall experience a client has with us. By working together, letting people do what they are good at, the vets, techs and CSRs are able to provide the type of service and veterinary care that we would want to experience as clients. A bonus to us is that we enjoy where we work and the people we work with.

The next time you are contacting the office, feel free to drop a line on things you like or wish we did.  We are always open to suggestions and believe that there is always room for improvement.

Laura Holmes ~ Office Manager

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Finding Nutritional Value!

This past year, McKee-Pownall has started doing nutrition consultations for patients with specific medical or performance issues.  We’ve found it to be very helpful to provide some medical guidance for our clients and patients, and rewarding to work together with their current feed supplier to find good solutions for their horses.  The great thing about nutrition consults is that they are always different and provide an interesting challenge to find a solution to help both the horse and the owner.  I have also really enjoyed working with the people in our practice who share a love of nutrition; Dr. Tovah Caldwell and our RVT, Stacey Thompson.  Together, we’ve worked on some diverse issues and made a meaningful difference in our patients’ lives.  Some of the cases our team have worked on:MWP_020910-47

  • Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)
  • Laminitis
  • Low energy
  • Stall rest and the high strung horse
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Tying up
  • Weight reduction/weight gain

I like to focus on cases with a medical issue, so that we can combine what we know about the case, as well as the horse and owner’s particular situation and put this together to make a personalized plan.  It is amazing what a difference good nutrition can make in a medical issue.  Food really can be amazing medicine!  It really makes me happy to reduce pain or put weight on a horse without using a bundle of medications, or to be able to cut back on meds he needed several months ago.  We know this to be true in human nutrition (it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get six pack abs if you’re eating McDonald’s and ice cream, or even a bunch of pre-processed foods) and it is no less true in horses.  The wonderful thing about horse nutrition is that we can see quick results because horses can’t cheat and sneak an extra helping or a chocolate bar on the sly.  They eat what we supply them!  The interesting thing has also been a paradigm shift, as I look at the horse in a holistic sense.  This approach sits well with me, as I have looked at horses in a big picture way since taking the acupuncture course.  Chinese medicine uses food as medicine as well, and it’s kind of neat to see how Chinese food beliefs actually match up nicely with what we know from science about nutrition today!  As Thanksgiving draws near, here’s to happy eating for all of our horses and humans.  I know I’m going to enjoy some of the medicinal effects of pumpkin pie (pumpkin has great fibre content after all.)

Melanie Barham DVM

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Challenges of Supplying Medications

With the advent of online pharmacies in the US, as veterinarians, we are often asked why we don’t carry a certain product, or why prices are sometimes higher in Canada than what is advertised on a US online pharmacy. The simple answer is that Canada and the US do not share drug approval systems; so what is available and approved in the US may not be approved for use in Canada and vice versa. Also the product manufacturers often have separate Canadian and US divisions or suppliers. Believe it or not we share these same frustrations and often ask our suppliers these same questions. It drives us crazy that US veterinarians can purchase some products so much cheaper than we can as their counterparts. Unfortunately, the higher price for us means a higher price for clients.

 A case in point is Adequan: Even though the same product is sold in both Canada and the US, there are many differences. 



10 dose bottle


7 dose box

7 dose box

Luitpold is the manufacturer and supplier

Novartis sells in Canada

The selling price to vets is much less expensive in the US than in Canada. In the past we had seen some online pharmacies selling it at a retail price less expensive than we can get it from our suppliers! Fortunately for the past 2 years Novartis, the company we deal with in Canada, has tried to combat cross border shopping of the product and has lowered their prices. We are able to buy in large volumes thereby reducing our costs even further, which we are happy to be able to pass on to our clients. We now sell the 7 dose box the same price at the equivalent product shipped from the US, taking into consideration the cost of shipping the product to Canada.

There is another advantage of buying veterinary medications from a veterinarian and that is that we can advise you on the best medication for a condition and proper dosing levels. For example, recent research from the makers of Adequan has identified that instead of giving a 7 dose starter series followed by monthly injections one can give a horse the initial 7 dose starter series and then repeat that series in 6 months. There is no need for a monthly or biweekly “maintenance” injections. Instead of giving 18 injections a year (7 doses plus once a month) you only need to give 14 shots total per year ( two 7 dose series).

There is a shortage of Adequan in the US that is expected to last until the end of the summer. We have a large inventory of the product that we have available for our clients. Due to our limited supply we must limit purchases to one box per client. If you have any other questions on why some medications cost more in Canada than in the USA please let us know.

Mike Pownall DVM

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Head it Off at the Pass- Preventative Preparations for Show Season

As we prepare for show season, most riders think of extra lessons, fitting up their eventers with conditioning programs and trailering in to school at different arenas and venues and buying new accessories and gear. As a vet, my perspective is a little different, as I think of the ramped up work load as an extra stress/strain on joints and muscles, vaccination, deworming, nutrition and dental floating. Just as people are getting geared up for bikini season with extra training sessions and if we’re lucky, a new wardrobe, so are our horsey companions. However, they aren’t getting prepped to lay on a sandy beach with a cold beer, they’re getting ready to work harder in the summer heat!

As I found when training for a half marathon, in a new training program, your muscles are sometimes sore and problems you never knew you had come to light. Before you know it, you’re finding it difficult to train/compete due to an injury! Before my first ½ marathon, I developed very painful shin splints, and found out I needed orthotics and needed to retrain myself to run in a more ergonomic way, as well as perform exercises on an ongoing basis to strengthen my muscles to avoid further injury. If I had taken the principles I apply to my patients, I could have avoided the agony of sore shins and had a much more comfortable race. A mid-training dynamic exam with a physiotherapist/ sports medicine doc would have revealed these problems and helped me solve them sooner!

Typically, I encourage as many of my patients as I can to take advantage of a pre-season checkup, which includes a physical exam and a dynamic musculoskeletal exam. I consider myself one part of the horse’s health care team, and I hope to be one of the voices to let the rest of the team know what is going on. I could obviously tell my doctor that my shins were killing me. Horses have all different ways to let us know; whether through actual limping, mild tenderness on palpation, a change in attitude etc. It’s best if the horse has been in at least moderate work prior to the examination so that we can gain the most information. Listening to the heart, lungs, GI tract and looking in the eyes are just part of the physical exam. I have often identified new heart murmurs (potentially dangerous when jumping obstacles!), or cataracts or other ocular abnormalities that would otherwise be unknown, even on horses who have been normal in previous years. Additionally, it allows us a chance to take a dedicated look at the horse in a holistic sense. Is there weight gain/loss? Muscle loss, or uneven development? Is his coat all of a sudden dull and burnt out?

The palpation and dynamic aspects of the exam is an important annual aspect as well, allowing me to monitor ongoing problems and identify new ones prior to investing in expensive show fees. Conformation issues, shoeing changes, or new lumps and bumps and areas of referred pain give me clues to changes or areas of soreness in the body. Sometimes we’ll find some lower back pain prior to true hock pain, or a small splint that has been causing a left drift. The dynamic aspect of the exam is usually performed on the lunge line to start, and involves a thorough look at how the horse behaves in motion. A new way of moving a limb, out of character behavior, or new musculature issues can all be clues to a small underlying soreness. We may perform an under saddle portion, or surcingle exam. Flexions are a part of the exam allowing us to stress a particular joint and see if there is any change to movement. When I look at horses annually, I get to know them pretty well. Sometimes I forget a horse’s face marking, but I can often recall their legs and way of traveling for years! Of course good record keeping is also key!

A common misconception many clients have is that pre-season checkups always end with the recommendation to inject specific joints and a huge bill. Sometimes this is elected, but I tailor my approach to the level of competition of the horse, age, issues we know to be at hand, and what is best for the horse. Understanding your goals for the season helps me make better recommendations. For example, if you were hoping to jump FEI in 3 weeks’ time, leaping over 1.50m fences and continuing with an aggressive schedule for the season with your campaigner with some extra arthritis baggage, I’m going to recommend something different than a young clean horse in his second year of A level or Trillium level competing! Often I will make shoeing recommendations together with the farrier, provide exercises to strengthen an area, recommend a nutrition change, or recommend preventative care such as Adequan, acupuncture or chiropractic to maintain a specific problem. The rider is usually more aware of specific deficits their horse has, so they can work on them with their coach too. All in all, a pre-season examination usually yields good preventative results for most horse rider teams, it allows us to get a handle on how the horse is doing going into the season, and have some idea of what bumps there might be in the road ahead.

Melanie Barham DVM

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Veterinarian or Chiropractor- What hat will I wear today?

Chiropractic Services with Dr. McKee

I want to start today by thanking our clients- I have been intensely gratified by the interest in chiropractic care for your animals and the enthusiastic response that Dr Surasky and I have received now that we are certified practitioners.

This leads to an interesting challenge- who am I exactly? Chiropractic theory and practice has given me a new way to assess and treat patients, and it has also improved my skills as a lameness and performance veterinarian. The challenge now lies in deciding how to proceed with an integrated approach on a case-by-case basis.

Sometimes the decision is made for me when a person who already has a regular veterinarian contacts me purely for chiropractic care and nothing else. Although this is often related to an ongoing lameness or performance issue, my role is very clear. I perform my exam, followed by appropriate adjustments, but it is not ethical for me to “take over” the case or indeed the entire client based on that interaction. I am both humbled and grateful when another veterinarian refers a horse to me for chiropractic, and I would not jeopardize my professional reputation by becoming a “pirate”. “But”, you may ask yourself, “what if you see something that is critically important to the overall case?” This is where openness and communication is key. I should be able to speak to the regular veterinarian about my observations and how they may contribute to the overall diagnosis and management of the horse. This is in the best interest of the patient, yet it preserves the relationship between client, the vet they have known and used for years, and me in the role of chiropractor.

Other situations are more complex. We see a lot of lameness and poor performance problems in our caseload, and while some are fairly straightforward, others are the result of multiple subtle issues that finally culminate in an observable problem. Once we get past the easily identifiable head-nods and concrete diagnosis through blocking, we are left with these complicated and challenging cases. Chiropractic has given me additional keys for unlocking this puzzle, but I have to decide where to integrate it into my diagnostic and treatment strategy. Is a series of adjustments alone going to be enough to resolve the problem? Do we have to start with more aggressive interventions? Ultimately I have to devise a program as unique as the individual I am treating.

This is when I manage to squish both hats onto my head. As a veterinarian-chiropractor, I palpate all over the horse’s body and limbs, observe it move under various conditions and challenges, and decide what areas to focus on. As a veterinarian I perform the diagnostic tests and imaging, various therapies ranging from joint injections and PRP/IRAP to shockwave, mesotherapy, and more, and finally set up the ongoing medication and management protocols. As a chiropractor, I perform the adjustments and suggest stretches and exercise programs that will develop the proper musculature and functionality. Finally, I put both hats on again and try to identify how those multiple separate issues have contributed to today’s problem. Whether we start with chiropractic alone, or more aggressive treatments followed up by series of adjustments all depends on the nature of the problem, the circumstances of that particular individual, timing of competitions, and preferences of the owner/trainer. There is often more than one way to effectively address the issue, the key is to create a plan and stick to it, with regular reassessments to make sure we are staying on the right track.

While integrating all I have learned in my chiropractic training into my longstanding experience in equine veterinary medicine can be difficult, it is a challenge that I welcome wholeheartedly. It means that I have more resources to draw upon when trying to do my best for our equine companions.

Melissa McKee DVM

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Animal Chiropractors – Are they all the same?

Dr. Surasky

Well,  final examinations are now over for the 5 week long Animal Chiropractic course that myself and Dr. McKee have been attending.  I am sad that it is over, since the wealth of knowledge and passion the instructors possessed was unending, and I wanted to absorb as much as possible.    Not only was the specific class time intense (12 hour days with oral, written and practical examinations), but the work outside of class  was also intense (case reports, journal articles to read, practice and studying). It got me thinking that with the lack of specific regulations and the lack of “policing”, how can a potential client determine who is qualified to perform chiropractic care on their animals?  Unfortunately, animal chiropractic is  like the farrier industry – the amount of training can vary from none (self-taught), to a weekend course, to an intense course that often includes an apprenticeship or practical component.  Results will  also vary based on the individual performing the treatment.

Let’s look into the different ways you could evaluate a possible candidate to provide chiropractic care for your horse.  First off, find out if they are certified.  There are 2 main groups that provide certification in the area of animal chiropractic care – the College of Animal Chiropractors (COAC) (, which is an international organization, and the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (ACVA) ( To become certified by either of these two groups, the candidate must be either a human chiropractor (DC) or a veterinarian (DVM).  This ensures the individual has a comprehensive knowledge base to draw from.  As well, they will have complete a regulated course on animal chiropractic that includes both written and practical testing throughout the program. If the candidate has passed the course, they have to write yet another examination in order to be certified.  Finally, to maintain certification a candidate must also complete a specified amount of continuing education every year to ensure they are up to date on the most recent advances and techniques.

If the individual is not certified by the COAC or ACVA, inquire as to how they learned their craft – legitimate courses have extensive information available online, so take a peek to see what was involved.  Speaking from personal experience, a weekend is not enough time to properly learn animal chiropractic even if you are already a veterinarian or a human chiropractor – there is just too much information!

Because of  confidentiality, a certified animal chiropractor is not able to give out clients names for  references, but you can ask other horse owners who they use and if they notice an improvement in their horse.  Finally, try to be there for the adjustment so you can watch it yourself – chiropractic is not adjusting the entire horse- it is adjusting individual segments- so it should not look rough and they should not use any mallets or other external devices.

Although this is not a fail safe method, it can be a good way to ensure the person working on your horse is competent and will do the best job.

Kathryn Surasky, DVM

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The Silent Dialogue

I can’t believe it, but we have finished the practical and course material! Now we just have to get through exams and final case presentations before we are truly pushed out of the nest. I shouldn’t say “just the exams” though, considering we have three written and two practical exams it is certainly not to be taken lightly. I must compliment our dedicated team of instructors though, as long as I study the material carefully and keep working on horses and dogs at every opportunity, I know they have prepared us extremely well for the final and certifications. I sure wouldn’t want to let them down!

Doing well on exams and achieving high scores on the practical sessions is all well and good, but the critical test that we must pass every day is the one that challenges our ability to translate this knowledge, as well as integrate it with our skills as veterinarians, into results for our patients. These are the real world tests that really matter.

I have been working on many horses and dogs lately, and have grown to appreciate the spontaneous and honest feedback that they give me during an adjustment, if I listen carefully and sympathetically to them. Animals don’t suffer (or benefit!) from the placebo effect. No matter how badly you want them to feel better, they will not pretend to improve just to make you happy. In many ways, this holds us to a rigorous standard of practice, as nothing less then your best and most thoughtful efforts will create a positive result for your patient. Empathy, positive intent, and maintaining the lines of communication with an animal during the session are of paramount importance. This is also true for any veterinary examinations and procedures we perform during our daily clinical activities, so I continually have the opportunity to develop this skill!

Horses are so in tune with their bodies that they speak a rich language through their posture, facial expression, and the energy that you feel in their bodies when you put their hands upon them. This is the beginning of your conversation with them, and if all goes well, they will go from tense and uncertain to relaxed and in a state of trust as you move about them. Whenever I adjust a horse, I watch for signs that we are progressing in the right direction- sighing, chewing, soft eyes, yawning. The opposite reactions are also valuable information as you approach a tender area or assess the response to your adjustments. I love the dialogue we share, even though a word is never spoken. This kind of connection with an animal is one of the privileges and highlights of my profession. I look forward to developing this with my patients every day.

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The Fear of Power

Dr. Courtemanche

“The power float cut the inside of my horse’s mouth and there was blood everywhere!”.  “My horse wouldn’t eat for days after power floating!”.  “Power floats remove too much and kill the teeth!”.  “Power floats cause heat damage and kill the teeth!”.  Power floating myths are among the most resilient stories in horse industry folklore.  It is a constant battle to deal with misinformation and fear mongering that some people put out there.  A little bit of education goes a long way toward increasing people’s comfort level when it comes to power dentistry.  I would like to show people that in the hands of a trained professional motorized equipment does a great job, is efficient and safe.

MYTH: So picture the following real life scenario.  I’m working on a young horse and I start by pulling out the wolf teeth.  There is obviously blood associated with the procedure.  Add to that 1-4 cap removals (more blood) and things can get quite messy.  I move on and start power floating a mouth that is now dripping blood from multiple extraction sites.  Blood pools in the lower lip and spills randomly down my arm, the bloody tongue is flicking drops of blood every which way. After regularly reaching into the mouth with my gloved hand to check my work I grasp the float with my now bloody gloves and happily work away.  You should now have a mental image of me with my blood spattered face and clothing, bloody hands and bloody tools.  It’s a scene right out of an episode of Dexter.  And this is the moment that some unsuspecting horse owner walks in and gets their first impression of power dentistry!  Years of client education are slipping away from me as I scramble to explain the work that took place before they walked into the barn.

Truth: The reality is that power floating is generally a bloodless procedure.  The carbide or diamond grinding wheel works very well on enamel but is essentially harmless to the cheeks and gums.  I can even hold my thumb over the spinning wheel and to this day I still have fingerprints!  Guess I have to put off my life of crime a little while longer!  Trauma is also reduced due to the precise action of the power float.  I can place the tool exactly where I want it to work as opposed to the long stroking action required with hand floats.

Myth: I once had a barn tell me that they refused to have their horses power floated.  Their reason was that they had tried it once before and the whole barn stopped eating hay for days!  Then they told me they had started a new batch of hay the same day…and that the horses that didn’t even have their teeth done were not eating it either.

Truth: A floated horse should be ready and willing to eat as soon as they wake up from the sedation (sometimes sooner!).  Horses requiring major corrections or those that have TMJ pain may need a little Bute on the day of the procedure if they are sore from wearing the speculum.  If anything power floating is better for these guys since it is faster and they spend less time with their mouth open.  There probably have been cases where the grinding surface was excessively floated or the incisors were reduced too much causing the horses to be unable to eat properly.  These cases are rare and easily avoidable with minimal training on the equipment and procedure.

Myth: People are terrified that power floats will bolt out of control and grind off an entire tooth in the blink of an eye.  The tooth will die and a multitude of terrible consequences will ensue.

Truth: I know I said power floating is efficient but let’s not get carried away!  It does take some effort to remove the desired amount of tooth.  When there is a lot of tooth to remove (as in large hooks, steps etc.) it may have to be done in stages.  A few millimeters today, then a few more in 3-4 months until the tooth is returned to normal.  Taking off too much doesn’t happen easily, you have to work at it.  An understanding of the anatomy of the tooth and the simple rules of floating greatly reduce the risk of over floating and any ill effects that could result.

Myth: Another comment I hear all the time is that the high speed spinning grinding wheel generates a lot of heat that will damage the tooth.  Over time that damage will lead to tooth death and loss.

Truth: There is actually truth to this theory.  It can indeed happen.  This is another case of a problem that is avoided with a little knowledge and training.  There is a limit to the amount of time spent grinding an individual tooth.  It is important to respect that time limit when working on a single tooth especially if the tooth needs significant reduction.  If necessary, water can be used to cool the tooth.

The introduction of motorized equipment has greatly changed the face of equine dentistry.  The horses receive better care and spend less time in the speculum, and the veterinarian does not suffer from fatigue and the sloppy results that occur with hand floating.  I hope that by educating my clients on the advantages of power floating the day will come when fear of the power float is a distant memory.

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Chiropractic Accreditation: Almost There

So Dr.Kathryn Surasky and I are well over halfway through our training to become certified as animal chiropractors! The workload over the first several modules was surprisingly intense, we learned not only the theory and techniques of chiropractic but also spinal column and neuroanatomy- in even greater detail than in vet school. This has given me the unexpected benefit of improved skill when performing and interpreting my neck and back ultrasounds, as well as a better understanding of exactly what I am palpating during my physical exam of these areas.

Dr. McKee

Our instructors are the most patient and giving group of teachers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Believe me, we give them plenty of opportunities to be critical or make fun of the totally boneheaded and klutzy errors we make during the practical sessions! Their kindness gives us the confidence to try, to fail, and to learn without (much) self-recrimination. Everyone taking the course wants to be a high achiever so I’m sure we are already hard enough on ourselves when we make mistakes, no need for an outside party to chip in.

At the beginning of the course, when several bulging binders were thumped down in front of us, Kathryn and I looked at each other with more than a little apprehension- were we up to the task? We had both been out of university for a while, and even though we take a lot of continuing education every year, it was obvious that we were in for a lot of plain old hard work. Thankfully, years of dogged study during vet school has set us up well for the routine of “just sit down and learn it”. If you don’t have well-established fundamentals, then you have nothing to build upon. Then you are literally just “thumping on the high side” without a true understanding of the animal’s medical condition or how you may be affecting them.

At first I felt like I was never going to get the hang of the specialized palpation required to assess the integrity of each joint. At night I would head home feeling a bit depressed, frustrated with my uncertainty and confusion, sure I was the only “unteachable” student they had ever encountered. Of course, I now know that most of us felt that way at the beginning! Bit by bit I began to integrate classroom learning with hands-on manipulation of the saintly and patient teaching animals, and develop the confidence to believe what my hands and eyes were telling me. Having practiced primarily as an equine lameness vet over the last 10 years was certainly a benefit when it came to watching animals move and palpating their bodies, and potential clinical applications of new skills I have learned are very exciting. Every session I pester the (also saintly and patient) instructors about ways that chiropractic can help me treat the myriad of conditions I see every day, such as airway dysfunction in racehorses, lameness, digestive problems, poor performance, sore backs, neurologic conditions, the list is endless. I see chiropractic therapy as a way to improve and enhance the results of my traditional treatments, keep horses functioning in tip-top shape during stressful race and show seasons, prolong the intervals between more invasive therapies such as joint injections, and overall improve the health and welfare of my patients. The fact that I can sometimes help an animal without having to reach for drugs and needles is incredibly rewarding (and probably a relief for the horses too).

None of this really matters if we can’t translate what we have learned into real-life decisions and manipulations that will truly help our patients. I’m very happy to say that so far, both Kathryn and I have been practicing our skills on any willing horse and dog that we encounter. Animals are great for providing honest feedback, since they don’t really respond to the placebo effect. If they don’t feel better they won’t stop limping or race faster just to please us. We have seen real results, some minor and others very dramatic. For example, the horse I selected for my case report is now voluntarily bearing weight on a limb that she had not used for over six months. We made no other changes to her routine, just adjusted her every 2-3 weeks for the last 2 months. How cool is that!!

We will complete the last module at the beginning of March, and if all goes well during the intensive final testing, we will be certified and ready to go. I can’t wait!

Melissa McKee DVM


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Back to School: Equine Chiropractic Accreditation

I have to admit – 6 years ago, when I wrote my final board examination at the start of 4th year vet school, I was so excited to be finished exams!  Don’t get me wrong, I loved school, I loved learning, but after 6 years of university I was so excited to be done with all the studying.  I figured all my big exams, all the paper, all the studying was over.  Sure I would continue to learn everyday, and take small courses but no more sitting for hours with a binder on my lap.  That was until recently…

I have become very passionate about sport horse care.  Horses are amazing animals, and I want to be able to do whatever is needed to keep them feeling and performing at their best.  Therefore I wanted to be able to offer chiropractic care.  After a little research, I found the Veterinary Chiropractic Learning Center in Brantford Ontario.  It had a stellar reputation and was an accredited course available to veterinarians and chiropractors only.  Both Melissa McKee and I eagerly signed up.  I didn’t even consider what was involved, because really, isn’t chiropractic just “putting a bone back in place?”

Wow was I WRONG!

The course is 5 weeks long, spread out over 6 months.  Each week is Wednesday through Sunday, and days are long – 12 hours or so.  And after being in practice for the past 5 ½ years, which means I’m constantly on the move working on horses, 12 hours inside a classroom makes for a very long day!  It consists of in depth anatomy, and physiology, not to mention neuroanatomy (anatomy of the nervous system) and neurophysiology (how the nervous system works).  Some of the information is familiar, but a lot of it was never covered in this detail in veterinary school.  There is also a lot of practical time – in the barn working on horses, and in the classroom working on dogs.

Oh, and yes there are exams; every week – practical, oral and written.    I am now spending evenings in an old, familiar position – sitting with a binder on my lap studying and in the barn practicing on horses.  We have covered the neck, thoracic and lumbar spine and the pelvis.  I am anxious to put all the pieces together.  My understanding of chiropractic is growing every day and it is definitely not “putting a bone back into place”; that I learned on the first day of class.  What we will learn by the end of the course is an exciting possibility.

Kathryn Surasky DVM

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