Clinical services

Updated April 15, 2022

As of April 15, 2022, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) no longer requires clients to show proof of vaccination before entering the hospital.

All clients must wear disposable, medical grade, three-layer masks while in the hospital. Masks will be provided for anyone who does not have one. Visit the "preventive measures" section for more information. 

To avoid overcrowding, the VMC encourages owners to limit their time spent in the hospital's reception areas. Please wait in your vehicle before your appointment time. 

The VMC offers normal operations in all of its clinical services. However, wait times for some clinical services may be longer than normal. There may also be a wait list for some of our hospital's specialty services. Our clinical team is addressing the backlog of cases in some of our clinical services, and we thank you for your patience. Please contact our client services team for more information.

To minimize contact between animal owners and members of the clinical team, the Veterinary Medical Centre has established a process for admitting and discharging your animals. 

Click the button below for full details.

 

Horse owners rely on the WCVM's Large Animal Clinic and Field Service for primary health care and round-the-clock emergency services.

As well, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre is a referral centre serving all of Western Canada.

Field Service

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre's Equine Field Service offers on-farm primary and emergency patient care as well as preventive health care programs to horses within an 80-kilometre radius of Saskatoon.

Please click on the following bars to learn more about the services available to horse owners. 

Equine wellness examination

Equine wellness is an important part of your horse’s overall health. An annual wellness and oral examination can help to identify health concerns early and maintain your horse’s overall health. 

The wellness exam typically includes the following:

  • physical examination
  • vaccinations targeted towards your horse’s needs
  • an oral examination under sedation
  • dental floating if needed
  • sheath cleaning for geldings
  • fecal egg counts to determine parasite burdens
  • specific deworming advice appropriate for the age and parasite burden of your horse

Blood work — such as Coggins testing for equine infectious anemia (EIA) — and routine complete blood counts and serum biochemistry are also offered at wellness exams. The wellness exam's components can be customized to meet the needs of the horse and its owner.

A wellness exam may include an evaluation of the body condition score (BCS) of the horse. Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) is a common problem in obese horses that causes insulin dysregulation and leads to a predisposition for laminitis. Your veterinarian can make recommendations about testing for this condition, nutrition for weight management, and medical treatment in severe cases.    

Oral examination and dental floating

An oral examination and dental floating are important parts of maintaining your horse's health. The oral exam can identify broken teeth, loose teeth, infections, soft tissue abnormalities, abnormal dental overgrowths and dental wear, and the presence of sharp dental points.

Sharp points and dental overgrowths can interfere with chewing feed and response to the bit while riding or driving. The floating procedure involves grinding down the sharp points with a rotating burr. 

Our veterinary team uses sedation for this procedure to improve the horse’s compliance and to protect the safety of the horse, handler and veterinarian. The Equine Field Service team has cordless tools available, so in most cases, they don't require power or facilities to perform this procedure on farm.  

Sedation

Sedation is an important tool for completing the oral examination and dental floating. Sedation achieves the following:  

  • calms the horse by altering the level of consciousness
  • reduces reaction to manipulations and environmental stimulation
  • provides pain relief

Sedation is necessary in many cases for the safety of the horse and its handler as well as the veterinarian performing the procedure. Common side effects of sedation include:

  • twitching
  • sweating
  • unco-ordinated movements
  • frequent urination
  • reduced esophageal contractions (reduced ability to move feed through the esophagus and into the stomach, which can increase the risk of equine choke)

Uncommon risks of sedation include:

  • colic
  • anaphylaxis (allergic reaction to the drugs)
  • collapse
  • excitement
  • subsequent injury following these events

Sedation typically lasts 20 to 60 minutes, but the horse may seem sleepy or unco-ordinated for up to two hours following the injection.  

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An on-farm lameness examination typically requires a flat, even surface to trot the horse so veterinarians can evaluate the gait. This may include an arena (indoor or outdoor), a flat grass field or a driveway.

The weather may limit the extent of the on-farm lameness exam, but the veterinarian and VMC reception staff can work with you and your schedule to ensure that the horse is evaluated in an appropriate setting.  

The lameness exam may include:

  • evaluating all of the horse's gaits
  • palpation
  • flexion tests
  • regional anesthesia

Occasionally, the veterinarian may request a ridden evaluation in order to assess the horse under the circumstances when the lameness is most noticed by its rider. 

Regional anesthesia involves the application of a small amount of freezing solution around the nerve or in a joint to eliminate pain from that region. This process can help to determine the source of the pain that may be causing the lameness. 

Following the lameness evaluation, the veterinarian may recommend medical imaging tools — such as radiography, ultrasound or MRI — to evaluate the structures that may be causing the lameness. 

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Portable X-ray machines

Portable X-ray machines, such as those used by our service, acquire instant digital radiographs on farm.  Radiographs can be used to assess bones and joints in the limbs, head, neck and some areas of the back.  These X-rays can aid in the diagnosis of lameness problems and dental problems. 

Please note: on-farm use of the X-ray machine requires power and temperatures above 0 C or a warm space. Some radiographs may require the horse to be sedated in order to acquire good quality images. 

Portable ultrasound machines

Our team uses portable ultrasound machines to:  

  • diagnose soft tissue injuries causing lameness
  • assess swellings and masses
  • examine the abdomen in colic cases
  • evaluate a mare’s reproductive tract

Please note: use of the portable ultrasound machine requires the farm to have power, shelter and temperatures above 0 C or a warm space. 

The VMC Equine Field Service is an integrated part of the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre, so your horse may be referred to the hospital if your horse requires advanced imaging such as a standing MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), nuclear scintigraphy or computed tomography (CT).

Following a lameness diagnosis, the veterinarian will be able to recommend treatment options that may include medication, surgery, a rehabilitation plan or alternative therapies. 

Many therapies for lameness problems or injuries can be implemented during an on-farm visit following a lameness exam and diagnostic imaging.

Joint injections (intra-articular medication) are commonly administered on farm as a therapy for arthritis. Some regenerative medicine therapies such as IRAP (interleukin 1 receptor antagonist) and Pro-Stride can be administered on farm. Others such as PRP (platelet rich plasma) require a quick visit to the hospital for the treatment. 

The VMC Equine Field Service team may recommend alternative therapies including therapeutic laser, extracorporeal shock wave, Game Ready and acupuncture. 

The pre-purchase examination is a comprehensive exam of the horse that evaluates its health and gait on the day of the exam to aid the prospective buyer’s purchasing decision. It cannot determine the horse's future health or its suitability for the intended purpose.

If previous medical records are released by the seller, the veterinarian will explain previous findings to the prospective buyer. 

The VMC Equine Field Service team will perform a pre-purchase exam that includes: 

  • a thorough physical examination
  • palpation of the back and limbs
  • application of hoof testers
  • gait analysis with flexion tests

Additional tests that are offered include:

  • targeted or survey radiographs
  • blood work
  • Coggins testing for equine infectious anemia (EIA)
  • drug testing

Diagnostic tests that require sedation or other medications — such as nerve blocks, full oral examination or a complete ophthalmic exam — are not usually performed. 

We encourage the potential buyer to be present for the exam, but if they are unavailable, we will discuss all findings by phone before performing additional tests. 

Following the exam, the VMC Equine Field Service team will email a detailed report to the buyer. Information obtained during the exam is the property of the buyer. The buyer may choose to disclose the exam's information to the current owner, but the buyer is under no obligation to share this information. 

The VMC Equine Field Service team can address several medical conditions on farm. But for many other medical problems, samples must be submitted to the laboratory — a process that takes time to get results. In these cases, the veterinarian will call to discuss the results with the client and prescribe medications that can be picked up at the Veterinary Medical Centre's pharmacy.

Various medical conditions may require analysis of blood work, fecal samples or biopsies to diagnose. The veterinarian will evaluate the history, physical exam findings and laboratory test results to reach a diagnosis and to deveop a treatment plan. The veterinarian may provide nutritional and management advice in certain cases such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), or for thin or geriatric horses.    

On-farm evaluation of respiratory problems may include the use of the standing or dynamic endoscope and sampling such as a tracheal wash, guttural pouch lavage or bronchoalveolar lavage. 

Standing endoscopy: a veterinarian uses a standing endoscope to diagnose problems of the upper and lower airway. It requires sedation, shelter and temperatures above 0 C or a warm space. 

Dynamic endoscopy: a veterinarian uses the dynamic endoscope to evaluate the horse's upper airway (larynx) during exercise. Sedation is not used, and the horse is exercised on a longe line or ridden with the endoscope inserted in the horse's nasal passage. This test requires an arena for riding and temperatures above 0 C or a warm space. 

Gastroscopy: a veterinarian conducts an endoscopy of the horse's stomach to diagnose equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS). To perform a gastroscopy on farm, the field service team requires power, shelter and temperatures above 0 C or a warm space. The horse should be fasted for 12 to 18 hours before the exam and water should be withheld for a few hours before the procedure.

Once the horse is sedated, the veterinarian will advance the endoscope through the nasal passage, into the esophagus and then into the stomach.    

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As horses age, they require extra attention to stay healthy. There are a few diseases such as pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) that are commonly seen in older horses and can have a significant impact on their health. Your veterinarian may recommend regular testing for this disease as your horse ages. 

Advancing age also affects a horse’s teeth and its ability to chew. A regular oral examination will assess the condition of your horse’s teeth. Horses with aging mouths often have several missing and overgrown teeth. The veterinarian can recommend feeds that are safe for your geriatric horse to eat.   

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Reproductive services that are offered in the field include:

  • ultrasound examination of the mare
  • artificial insemination with fresh, cooled transported or frozen semen
  • diagnosis of pregnancy
  • twin reduction
  • pregnant mare care
  • dystocia assistance
  • treatment of a retained placenta
Advanced and specialized procedures — such as stallion collection and embryo transfer — are referred to the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre's equine theriogenology service.  

Breeding by artificial insemination often requires the veterinarian to perform multiple ultrasound examinations of the mare to determine the correct timing of breeding. When this procedure is performed on farm, it often requires the veterinarian to make multiple visits — usually during the same day. Due to these requirements, the VMC Equine Field Service's on-farm breeding is limited to farm locations within 40 kilometres of Saskatoon.

For farms further away, horse owners are referred to the Veterinary Medical Centre's equine theriogenology service. 

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The first 24 hours of a foal’s life can be critical to the animal's future health. Foals should be:

  • born within 30 minutes of the start of active labour
  • able to stand within 60 to 120 minutes of birth
  • nursing from the dam within three hours of birth. 
If these time points are not achieved, the mare's owner should call the VMC Equine Field Service team to attend to the foal. 

Colostrum (the mare's first milk) is required for the mare to pass antibodies to the foal. These antibodies are vital for the foal’s immune system to fight off infections caused by opportunistic germs in the foal's normal environment.

The newborn foal may not have enough antibodies to support the immune system if the following scenarios occur: 

  • if the foal doesn't nurse from the mare shortly after birth
  • if foal's mother had been streaming milk from her udder before giving birth
  • if the foal's mother has produced antibody-poor colostrum

When the foal is 24 hours old, the VMC Equine Field Service team can use the IgG foal SNAP test to measure the level of antibodies in the foal's blood and to determine if it has received enough colostrum. If the levels are low, a plasma transfusion may be required to support the foal’s immune system. 

In addition to the SNAP test, the VMC Equine Field Service team will conduct a full physical examination of the foal at 24 hours of age. The foal exam includes an assessment for anatomical abnormalities that may affect its normal development. 

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A castration (gelding procedure) can be performed in the field on stallions four months of age and older. Some mature stallions may be referred into the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre's large animal surgery service if the veterinarian feels it would be safer for the horse to be anesthetized in a more controlled environment. 

Castrations should be performed on dry flat ground in mild weather conditions. This may be outdoors in the spring or fall in a dry grass paddock or in a large stall. Outdoor castrations may be postponed due to inclement weather.

Before the castration, the horse should be fully vaccinated against tetanus. Tetanus is a life-threatening disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetaniC. tetani spores are found in the soil and can enter the castration wound and cause painful muscle contractions. Vaccination against this bacteria is very effective. Full vaccination requires two doses of the vaccine four to six weeks apart. 

At the castration, the VMC Equine Field Service team will examine the horse and determine whether it's healthy and able to safely undergo general anesthesia. A veterinarian will administer drugs to anesthetize the horse, causing the animal to be unconscious and recumbent throughout the procedure. 

The castration will be performed by the attending veterinarian and senior veterinary students. The horse may be asleep for a short period of time following the surgery and may remain sedated and unco-ordinated for an hour or two after standing.

General anesthesia in horses comes with risks including:

  • facial or radial nerve paralysis (usually temporary, occasionally permanent)
  • muscle damage
  • reduced gut motility and colic
  • anaphylaxis
  • injury (such as fractures) during recovery (the horse may fall when trying to stand up)
  • cardiac arrest (rare instances)

These complications are uncommon in young and healthy horses.

Castration complications include:

  • hemorrhage (bleeding) from the surgery site
  • infection of the spermatic cord or incision
  • scrotal seroma formation
  • evisceration of the contents of the abdomen (omentum or intestines)

These complications are uncommon and the risk is reduced when the owner follows the veterinarian's post-surgical instructions. 

Common minor surgeries performed in the field include:

  • excision of small masses
  • treatment of sarcoid skin tumours
  • wound repair and debridement

These surgeries are most commonly performed in the standing sedated horse, but general anesthesia may be required in some cases. 

Sedation calms the horse by altering the level of consciousness, it reduces reaction to surgical and environmental stimulation and provides pain relief. Sedation is necessary in many cases for the safety of the horse, the horse handler and the veterinarian who is performing the procedure. 

Common side effects of sedation include:

  • twitching
  • sweating
  • unco-ordinated movements
  • frequent urination
  • reduced esophageal contractions (reduced ability to move feed through the esophagus and into the stomach and therefore an increased risk of choke)

Uncommon risks of sedation include:

  • colic
  • anaphylaxis (allergic reaction to the drugs)
  • collapse
  • excitement
  • subsequent injury following these events

Sedation typically lasts 20 to 60 minutes, but the horse may seem sleepy or unco-ordinated for up to two hours following the injection.   

The VMC Equine Field Service is available to respond to equine emergencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week — including holidays.  

Your horse’s health is our primary concern, so please call if you have an emergency or any urgent questions regarding your horse’s health.

If the VMC Equine Field Service team is attending to another patient when you call, they may not be able to answer the phone or see you right away. Please leave a message with your name and phone number and they will call you back as soon as possible. 

The WCVM Equine Field Service team respond to common emergencies including: 

  • colic
  • wounds
  • a recumbent (down) horse
  • sudden lameness visible at a walk
  • non-weight bearing lameness
  • swollen limbs
  • swollen and painful eyes
  • dystocia (difficult foaling)
  • retained placenta
  • newborn foal problems and health checks (SNAP test for IgG)
  • severe respiratory problems

Inclement weather may affect our ability to treat your horse in the field. In those cases, we may refer you to the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre for further treatment.  

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Exportation of horses to the United States requires a health exam by a veterinarian who is accredited with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a health certificate, and a negative Coggins test for equine infectious anemia (EIA).

EIA, a viral infection that is spread by biting flies such as horse flies and deer flies, is a reportable disease in Canada and the U.S. The Coggins test involves a blood sample and positive identification of the horse. Photographs and a description of the horse are used to create the certificate on the online platform (Global Vet Link or GVL). The horse's owner must have a GVL account to access current Coggins test results. 

The blood sample is submitted to Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS), the provincial veterinary diagnostic laboratory in Saskatchewan. 

  • If the test is negative, the negative certificate will be available to the owner in two to 14 days.
  • If the test is positive, it may be a true positive (meaning the horse is infected with EIA) or there may be a false positive (meaning the horse is not infected with EIA). PDS will send the blood sample to a federal lab for retesting. If the horse is confirmed to be positive, the CFIA will order the horse to be euthanized.

Click here to learn more about EIA and the CFIA’s response.

Please schedule your horse's health examination at least two weeks before your departure if an updated Coggins test must be performed.

Alternatively, the Coggins test can be completed within six months before the horse's departure date and the health exam can be scheduled as late as five days before departure. Following the health examination, the attending veterinarian completes the health certificate, which is then signed by a CFIA veterinarian. 

Some U.S. states require specific permits to unload horses within the state. Please check specific state regulations before your departure.

Equine euthanasia may be needed urgently in emergency cases, or it may be the conclusion to a long-term illness or poor-doing in the horse's old age. 

The decision to euthanize a horse can be a difficult one, and it may have many impacts on the people and other horses that were close to the euthanized animal. Your veterinarian can help you determine when and how to euthanize your horse, and they can answer your questions about the experience. 

If you are struggling with the decision to euthanize your animal or you're having difficulty coping after the euthanasia of your animal, a WCVM veterinary social work team member can help. Click here for more information.

The VMC Equine Field Service team can perform a euthanasia on farm, or you may wish to have the horse brought into the Veterinary Medical Centre. The clinical team can discuss the method of euthanasia that is most appropriate for your horse and help you determine a plan for your horse’s remains. 

Specialized Services

Supported by upgraded facilities and advanced technologies, our clinical teams offer the latest diagnostic techniques and a full range of therapies to all of our equine patients including:

Dentistry
Internal Medicine
Lameness
Medical Imaging
Ophthalmology
Reproduction
Surgery

Facilities

Ryan/Dubé Equine Performance Centre

The focal point for the VMC's equine clinical services, teaching and research is the Ryan/Dubé Equine Performance Centre.

The facility offers a permanent longeing arena, an equine standing MRI, a high-speed equine treadmill and an indoor paved runway.

These resources complement the VMC's existing diagnostic tools that include digital radiograpy, endoscopy, ultrasonography, computed tomography and nuclear scintigraphy. Advanced diagnostic testing is also accessible through Prairie Diagnostic Services — the provincial laboratory that’s located next door to the VMC.

Owner Support

Are you experiencing emotional distress over the health of your animal companion? Please contact our Veterinary Social Work team for support during this difficult time.

Client Experience Survey

We are always working to improve our clients' experience at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC), so we would love to hear from you about what we are doing right and what we can do better.

Please take a few minutes to give us your feedback. If you would like to have your name entered in a monthly draw for $50 worth of pet food, please include your contact information in the survey form. 

Client Relations and Concerns

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) has a client relations and concerns process to assist with your concerns if you are unable to find answers to your questions.

Our goals are to provide a mechanism for objective review and response to client concerns and to ensure that all complaints are addressed in a timely and respectful manner. 

Click the button below to read more about the client relations and concerns process. 

Our Team

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre's clinical team members are dedicated, compassionate people with specialized training and a diverse range of experiences. In addition to providing our patients with high-quality care and support, we are helping to train Western Canada's next generation of veterinary professionals.

What to Expect

While the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre shares many similarities to other veterinary hospitals, there are some differences that may have an impact on your appointment.

Appointments and Referrals

Animal Owners

Contact us to make an appointment. If you are a new client, please click below to find information about our location, parking and what to expect during your animal's appointment.

Referring Veterinarians

Submit an online referral form.


 Emergency services available 24/7

Emergency services are available for acutely ill or seriously injured animals.

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