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January 24, 2017 – Quarter horses are an American breed of horse that excel at sprinting, clocking in at speeds of up to 55 mph and outdistancing other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less. But for one young quarter horse, that ability to run was taken away. Recurrent lameness and swelling in her right forelimb had left her limping and in pain. The source of her pain? A persistent infection of unknown origins she wasn’t able fight off.

Timeless Oaks Eclipse’s owner sought care for her at the University of Queensland Veterinary Medical Centre in Queensland, Australia. Luckily for Timeless, Morris Animal Foundation-funded researcher Dr. Steven Zedler was evaluating a new, non-invasive, imaging technology in horses with naturally occurring infections, and Timeless was a perfect candidate to participate in the study.

Dr. Zedler’s new technique uses a radioactive tracer that accumulates in areas of infection. Special sensors are then used to detect accumulations of the tracer to “map” infections. This new imaging method helps screen a horse’s entire body to pinpoint infection sites.

“Because a horse has a large body, it can be difficult to determine the source of infection with current technologies,” said Dr. Zedler, who is a Diplomate in the American College of Veterinary surgeons, and a specialist in equine surgery and lameness. “Sometimes, this has the unintended consequence of delaying appropriate treatment.”

The new imaging technique was used on Timeless Oaks Eclipse. Dr. Zedler’s team first identified an abscess in Timeless’ right axilla (armpit) with ultrasound but could not rule out the presence of additional deeper abscesses under the shoulder using this method alone. The use of the new scanning imaging technology confirmed there was no evidence of additional abscesses or sites of infection.

“This additional knowledge helped the owner feel more comfortable with the always difficult decision of surgery for his animal,” said Dr. Zedler.

The infection in Timeless’ armpit was easily accessible and treatable with surgery. Once the abscess was surgically drained, Timeless’ lameness resolved within 24 hours and she made a full recovery from surgery. Today, Timeless is happily running again, living comfortably on pasture, and due to have her first foal next.

Morris Animal Foundation is committed to helping all animals, big and small. Your support helps continue the valuable work of Dr. Zedler and other veterinary researchers around the world to improve the health of not only their patients, but animals around the world.