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Equine Dental Care

One of the most important measures you can take to ensure continued good health is routine dental work. Regular dental work helps to keep your horse comfortable in his daily work and allows him to use his feed efficiently.

Horses chew in a side to side or figure-eight motion. This action and constant growth in your horse’s teeth mean that unless the wear is even and uniform, sharp points and hooks will form on the edges of cheek teeth (wolf teeth, premolars and molars). 

Floating is the “rasping” or filing of points on the teeth to prevent them from cutting the cheek or tongue. Floating might involve leveling of the molar arcades or rounding the surface of the second premolar to resemble the end of a thumb. The goal of floating is to maintain the symmetry and balance of the arcade and to allow free chewing motion.

Routine FloatingHere are some signs of dental problems to be aware of: weight loss, dropping feed while eating, difficulty chewing, head tilting while chewing and riding related issues.

Routine dental exams provide an opportunity to perform preventative dental maintenance and avoid having minor problems that become serious down the road.

We recommend that a routine dental exam be performed every 6-8 months and a floating every 12 months. The end result is a happier, healthier and more comfortable horse!



The Chinese have used acupuncture for over three thousand years, impressive testimony to its usefulness and effectiveness. After China and the United States opened political relations in the 1970’s there was an increased interest by Western practitioners in using it as a treatment for horses. Investigation showed it to be safe for many previously difficult to treat medical conditions. The AVMA recognized acupuncture as a “valid modality and an integral part of veterinary medicine”. This technique, however, is considered a medical procedure to be practiced only by licensed veterinarians.

Acupuncture in the horse goes back to the ancient Chinese. The Ch’in and Han dynasties (221BC-AD220) practiced veterinary medicine which has been verified by prescriptions written on wood describing acupuncture and herbal treatments. Many horses were raised for the military during the T’ang dynasty (AD618-907) and most of the books written during this period deal with diseases of the horse.  The T’ang rulers formalized veterinary medical education and established the first veterinary school.

Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into specific points of the body to regulate the flow of energy (Chi). This energy is comprised of positive (Yang) and negative (Yin) that courses through channels called meridians. When imbalances in these energy flows occur pathological processes or diseases begin. External factors, emotional factors, and pathogenic factors play an important role in creating imbalances.  Through to use of acupuncture the energy can be adjusted to reestablish equilibrium and allow healing to take place.

Acupuncture is a very powerful type of physiotherapy in which there is controlled activation of the spinal and central nervous system and neuro- endocrine and systemic responses. Acupuncture influences the physiological states of the nervous, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital, respiratory, and endocrine systems.  It has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, and immunosuppressant effects. It also has antispasmodic effects on smooth and striated muscle, as well as influences on microcirculation and glandular secretions. Acupuncture has no effect on paralysis due to nerve transsection or brain damage, but does have some effect on peripheral nerve damage. It is ineffective with severe or irreversible pathological changes such as chronic organ damage, fracture, and cartilage degeneration. And, it is not recommended for treating neoplasia (tumor) or severe organic diseases.

Conditions Responsive to Acupuncture


  •  Arthritis/osteoarthritis of the knee, hock, ankle, or pastern

  • “Sore back” originating in the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral area

  • Shoulder soreness as a result of bursitis due to lower leg lameness

  • Lamanitis/founder

  • Navicular disease


  • Heaves

  • Allergic bronchitis

  • Chronic bronchitis

  • Rhinitis

  • Sinusitis

  • Pharyngitis

  • Bleeding


  • Ovulation

  • Milk letdown

  • Increased uterine contractions


  • Gas colic

  • Impaction

  • Diarrhea

  • Colitis

  • Ulcers


  • Radial paralysis following trauma

  • Cervical ataxia as a result of trauma

Behavioral Problems

  • Aggression

  • Nervousness

Acupuncture has many applications in equine medicine. The success rate is above 70 percent, especially in back soreness and musculoskeletal, reproductive, and respiratory disease. In the case of chronic problems of long duration successful treatment may take several months. In acute conditions improvement may be seen with three to four treatments at weekly or biweekly intervals. To achieve best results acupuncture may be combined with more traditional therapies.

Acupuncture is a safe and versatile technique that offers a good alternative to traditional Western veterinary medicine. It cannot cure every condition but it has given many a second chance. 

*Information from: Healing your Horse Alternative Therapy; Snader, et al.


Colic Exam

The number one killer of horses is colic. Colic is not a disease, but rather a combination of signs that alert us to abdominal pain in the horse. Colic can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored. Many of the conditions that cause colic can become life threatening in a relatively short period of time. Only by quickly and accurately recognizing colic – and seeking qualified veterinary help – can the chance for recovery be maximized.Dr. Jim Hamilton performing a colic exam on a horse at Southern Pines Equine

Recognizing Colic

A major problem for you as a horse owner is identifying the signs of colic. That's because signs can vary greatly between individuals and may also depend on the severity of the pain. However, among the more common signs are:

  • Turning the head toward the flank

  • Pawing

  • Kicking or biting at the abdomen

  • Stretching out as if to urinate without doing so

  • Repeatedly lying down and getting up or attempting to do so

  • Rolling, especially violent rolling

  • Sitting in a dog-like position, or lying on the back

  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)

  • Putting head down to water without drinking

  • Lack of bowel movements, as evidenced by the small number of manure piles

  • Absence of, or reduced, digestive sounds

  • Sweating

  • Rapid respiration and/or flared nostrils

  • Elevated pulse rate (greater than 52 beats per minute)

  • Depression

  • Lip curling (Flehmen response)

  • Cool extremities

Taking Immediate Action

Time is perhaps the most critical factor if colic is to be successfully treated. While a number of cases resolve without medical intervention, a significant percentage do require prompt medical care, including emergency surgery. If you suspect your horse is suffering from colic, the following action plan is suggested:

1. Remove all food and water.

2. Notify your veterinarian immediately.

3. Be prepared to provide the following specific information:

  • Pulse rate
  • Respiratory rate (breathing)
  • Rectal temperature
  • Color of mucous membranes
  • Capillary refill time (tested by pressing on gums adjacent to teeth, releasing, then counting the seconds it takes for color to return)
  • Behavioral signs, such as pawing, kicking, rolling, depression, etc.
  • Digestive noises, or lack of them
  • Bowel movements, including color, consistency and frequency
  • Any recent changes in management, feeding, or exercise
  • Medical history, including deworming and any past episodes of abdominal pain
  • Breeding history and pregnancy status if the patient is a mare, and recent breeding history if the patient is a stallion
  • Insurance status and value of the horse (NOTE: The insurance carrier should be notified if surgery or euthanasia is being considered).

4. Keep horse as calm and comfortable as possible. Allow the animal to lie down if it  a       appears to be resting and is not at risk of injury.

5. If the horse is rolling or behaving violently, attempt to walk the horse slowly.

6. Do not administer drugs unless specifically directed to do so by your equine practitioner. Drugs may camouflage problems and interfere with accurate diagnosis.

7. Follow your veterinarian's advice exactly and await his or her arrival.

Diagnosing the Case

Your equine practitioner will establish the severity of the colic and identify its cause. His or her examination and/or treatment may include the following procedures:

  • Observation of such signs as sweating, abdominal distension (bloating), rapid breathing, flared nostrils, and abnormal behavior

  • Obtaining an accurate history

  • Passage of a stomach tube to determine presence of excess gas, fluids, and ingesta

  • Monitoring vital signs, including temperature, pulse, respiration (TPR), color of the mucous membranes, and capillary refill time

  • Rectal palpation for evidence of intestinal blockage, distension, or other abnormalities

  • Blood test for white cell count and other data

  • Abdominal tap in order to evaluate protein level and cell type in the peritoneal fluid 

  • Analgesics or sedatives to relieve pain and distress

  • Laxatives to help reestablish normal intestinal function

  • Continued observation to determine response to treatment

  • Transport

  • Surgery

Attributing the AAEP



With the help of computer enhancement this modality allows for accurate evaluation of bone for evidence of arthritis, fractures and other joint abnormalities. Rare Earth screens and an intensifying grid aids in providing a sharp image. The image processing center allows us to digitalize all of our diagnostic images. Once the image is in a digital format, several options are available. The image can be computer enhanced (sharpened or zoomed), archived for future review/comparison, emailed to another veterinarian, or uploaded to the Veterinary Specialists Network for consultation with other specialists.



Soft tissue injury is best evaluated by using an ultrasound. Tendon and ligament strains can be diagnosed and monitored with accuracy. We also use the ultrasound to help us diagnosis pregnancy in mares and in routine reproductive exams. The ultrasound is a great tool in predicting ovulation because it has the ability to measure follicles more accurately than palpation alone.


Lameness Evaluations

Lameness is any abnormality in a horse's gait which is an indication of a structural or functional disorder in one or more limbs of a horse that is apparent during motion or Dr. Jim Hamilton of Southern Pines Equine Associates performs pre-purchase the standing position. Lameness is most often due to a muscle , joint or bone abnormalities.

How a lame horse is examined depends largely on the type of lameness. Some lameness cases are easily diagnosed by history, presentation and a physical examination. However, other lameness disorders (often mild lameness), may require joint flexions, diagnostic nerve/joint blocks, radiography, ultrasonography, nuclear scintigraphy and other diagnostic procedures.



A pre-purchase exam includes a physical exam, soundness exam, radiology, endoscopy, ultrasonography, routine blood work and drug screening. LungingEach pre-purchase exam is tailored around the buyers needs and intended use of the horse.

Deciding exactly what should be included in the purchase examination requires good communication between you and your veterinarian.






We are equipped with a 3-meter gastroscope and a 1-meter laryngic-scope, which allows us to examine the inside of the stomach for gastriculcers and to diagnose any disorders of the larynx and pharynx. We also have a 1-meter laryngic-scope that is portable and can be used in the field.


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