Talking with Dr. Lisa Burgess


Dr. Lisa Burgess talks bodywork, homeopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine with EW readers.

Q: My filly recently strained her stifle, after falling while playing on poor footing. I am currently resting her, with turnout in a small paddock (so she can still move around, but not so much that she can make it worse). What treatments and therapies would be beneficial for her? Do I need to wait until she is no longer sore before having someone do any type of bodywork on her?

A: A stifle strain may manifest as a mild to severe lameness on the affected leg, and would initially benefit from therapies such as bodywork aimed at decreasing inflammation. This should be followed by treatments to improve circulation to the area to promote healing of the injured joint or strained patellar/collateral ligament(s).

Initial therapies may include acupuncture and/or chiropractic, plus the homeopathic Arnica Montana 200c. A standard dose of Arnica is six tablets or ½ teaspoon of granules two to three times per day. Traumeel, from the Heel company, is also a good anti-inflammatory, and is a combination remedy that works like the single remedy homeopathics. It comes in tablet or injection form. Your veterinarian can start the therapy with an injection, and then you can follow up with oral dosing. A Traumeel ointment could be massaged onto the stifle area. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as yucca, white willow bark and devil’s claw could also be used, but take longer to get into the horse’s system for a visible effect.

You do not need to wait to perform any bodywork on her, as long as she is cooperative. She may really enjoy some massage or Bowen therapy to aid in the healing process.

If the lameness persists beyond 48 hours without any improvement, be sure to obtain an x-ray to rule out a fracture of the patella.

Q: My previously healthy gelding has had gas colic twice over the past six months. Thankfully it passed each time. The first episode happened during an extremely hot spell, and the second during an extremely cold period. We are sure he is drinking, as the barn owner checks his buckets (but maybe he isn’t drinking enough?). What can I do to prevent him from colicking again? He is fed hay, a small amount of roughage chunks and a vitamin/mineral supplement, and is turned out for long periods each day in a large field.

A: In my opinion, gas colics are not so dependent on water consumption as impaction colics. With impaction colic, the stool becomes dry and lodged in the intestinal tract, and the colic is caused by the backing up of digesta as it physically does not move down the tract. Gas colics are commonly caused by the fermentation of “rich” foods (sweet feed, pellets, hay cubes etc.), thereby producing extra gas in the intestine. This gas abnormally distends the bowel and results in pain when the horse cannot get rid of it. Obstruction due to enteroliths (stones) or a twisted section of intestine could also cause gas colic.

In your horse’s case, it is likely the roughage chunks that are causing him grief and his recurring episodes of colic. I would suggest changing the type of chunk, or removing them from his diet completely, and substituting with more hay. Hay is superior roughage, as it is already in the form for which the horse’s digestive tract is designed.

Q: Recently, when my farrier came out for my mare, he mentioned that she appeared to toe out a bit on her left front. However, as we looked closer, it appeared she was turning out from her shoulder rather than from a conformational issue lower down the leg. She did not do this before. Why would she begin to do this? Could she be compensating for something? What can I do to help her?

A: If you think she has truly changed the way she stands in front, and your farrier has not changed her angle gradually or dramatically with his/her shoeing or trims, then I would go over her from a chiropractic and/or acupuncture point of view. I would check to see if any obvious subluxations or ah-shi points are noteworthy. These will be clues as to where, and perhaps why, the body has changed its conformation. Muscles or muscle groups may be weak or overcompensating. Take special note of the neck and chest area. It would be of interest to initially use acupuncture and chiropractic care. If the horse does not show an improvement with her stance after that, then I would consider an osteopathic evaluation and treatment.

A horse I am looking at purchasing has wind puffs on his hind legs. What causes these? Is there anything that can be done about them, and should I be concerned about this horse’s soundness in the future?

Wind puffs (or wind galls) is a term used to describe incidental fluid accumulation in the digital flexor tendon sheath. Tenosynovitis is another term for this condition, which causes swelling in front of the suspensory ligament. It may be a concern for lameness; an ultrasound of the limb could provide a definitive diagnosis. A true wind puff is not a concern for soundness, and is an esthetic issue only. They are usually evident in older performance horses and any therapy to draw fluid out of the area would likely only be a temporary resolution.

Q: My mare recently developed a nasty runny nose and cough. She is on both an antibiotic and an expectorant to help her get rid of the infection. Are there any natural remedies I can use to assist in making her feel better? Is there anything I could have used in the beginning stages to perhaps prevent it from getting so bad?

A: You could assist your mare’s healing using homeopathy or herbal remedies, in conjunction with nutritional supplementation for immune system support and overall cellular health. Because I am not a classical homeopathic practitioner, I take a homotoxicology approach, and would use a Heel product called Echinacea compositum Forte SN. If her appetite is depressed, I may add some Traumeel to the protocol for its anti-inflammatory properties.

If herbs were acceptable to you and your horse then you could use Echinacea for its immune system actions, or a Chinese herbal formula, in conjunction with acupuncture. Together they would treat the Lung and disperse Phlegm in order to allow the Lung Qi to flow. This formula may vary, depending on the color of the nasal discharge (clear or colored) and the type of cough (loud or weak, productive or non-productive). A veterinarian trained in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine would be best to assist you in picking the most beneficial Chinese herbal formula.

Regardless which extra support you utilize, essential fatty acids and B complex vitamins (injected or orally) would also be in my treatment protocol.

Early stages of respiratory disease may be helped by Echinacea, even before the coughing starts. If other horses in the barn are coughing or sick, start your immune system support sooner rather than later!

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