As we were driving home last week from Anaheim, Calif., I laid out my writing schedule for the next month to my husband. When I got to, "And I need to write one more blog post next week to summarize the convention," he immediately said, "So, is this going to be about where you think equine medicine is heading?"
He was right. I had been fretting over how to summarize the volumes of information from the conference into one pithy post of things that I haven't already covered in this blog. I was looking back. My husband, with his eyes on the road rather than a laptop screen, was looking forward.
So, let's take a look into my crystal ball. Never mind the cracks--it's just a little fractured from years of trying to figure out prognoses for owners without all of the data. The future is cloudy ... the mists are parting ... I see a banjo ...
The 2013 Convention of the AAEP will be held in Nashville, Tenn. I have no idea what the program will contain, but I might take some guesses about what shifts we may see in equine medicine over the next few years based on some of the highlights from this year.
Nice genes, baby! The sequencing of the equine genome strikes me as one of the most exciting, eye-opening things to happen to equine medicine since the days of the chariot. (Possibly a bit of exaggeration there, but I'm not sure.) I predict (around that hairline crack to the left of the crystal) that as our knowledge of the equine genome deepens, we will better understand how certain genes respond to environmental factors, disease agents, and other genes. I predict that this understanding will allow the development of better vaccines, improved wellness screening, and earlier disease diagnoses.
Looking under the hood of that gift horse. Equine dentistry has come a long way since I was in school and, judging by the numbers I saw in some of the dentistry lectures, I predict that equine veterinarians will continue deepening their involvement in reclaiming this particular veterinary procedure from lay, unlicensed practitioners. Expect the full-mouth exam and pre-procedure radiographs to become normal parts of your horse's routine care. I suspect he will thank you.
Teamwork. Veterinarians and farriers used to be ships passing in the night, blowing our foghorns to warn the other away from our patch of the ocean. No more. As imaging techniques and biomechanical knowledge improve, veterinarians and farriers need each other more than ever. And the horse needs both. I predict that, when confronted with a lameness, or maybe even just a new horse, you will hear your veterinarian say, "I'd like to get together with your farrier to work up a plan," or your farrier say, "Can we get your vet out to have some X rays taken before I trim this guy?" with increasing frequency.
Just say ... I can't say whether we will be saying yes or no to drugs, but I suspect a bit of both. New drugs, particularly anti-inflammatories and antimicrobials, always seem to be on the horizon, and I don't see that the future will be any different there. I suspect, however, that we will see increasing levels of regulation in all of the equine performance disciplines, and that we may see changes in the use of compounded drugs and how those are regulated.
Getting social. Medical technology isn't the only thing that is changing. Our phones, computers, and that strange organism known as the Internet are changing the ways in which we interact and plan our days. This isn't going away, and I think that veterinarians, like everyone else, will begin to use these communications tools to our advantage. It's already happening. Smart phones are beginning to have apps to track human medical data; how long before that reaches the stable? Small animal hospitals have dedicated pet "portals," personalized websites for each pet that allow owners to access their animal's medical information from phone or computer. I bet that we will see equine medical communications shift in this direction as well, especially since so many of our patients travel. Is your veterinarian in your Twitter feed? Do you get updates on the latest equine health news in your area via the clinic's Facebook page? I predict that more and more practitioners will use these tools to streamline the delivery of information to horse owners throughout the busy days.
The mists are closing ... okay, my crystal ball is worn out. I guess we will all have to wait and see what the future brings. Unless the Mayans were right, but what did they know? There aren't any horses on that calendar of theirs, are there?