World-leading technology for horse health comes to WA

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An advanced veterinary imaging centre at Murdoch University will help Western Australian horses stay in top shape.

Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) has partnered with The Animal Hospital at Murdoch University (TAHMU) to bring standing CT and MRI to the horse community, including subsidised scans for thoroughbred and standardbred racehorses.

Innovations in CT and MRI technology now allow imaging of previously inaccessible structures and, most excitingly, imaging without the need for general anaesthesia.

Murdoch University Senior Lecturer and Registered Specialist in Equine Medicine, Dr David Byrne, said standing CT and MRI could help to avoid injuries by spotting early signs of tissue strain and bone issues which were not previously identifiable using standard imaging techniques.

“In sport horses, standing MRI has been revolutionary in diagnosing soft tissue injury, especially in the foot,” he said.

“Standing CT has also proven tremendously important for planning dental care and procedures, providing far superior images compared to radiographs.”

RWWA Veterinary Services Manager Dr Judith Medd said standing imaging techniques lead to lower costs, and is hopeful that by making the technology affordable and accessible, there will be a strong uptake to predict and prevent injuries.

“We are helping to establish the new imaging technology for the simple reason that prevention is better than cure,” Dr Medd said.

“Active racehorses will benefit from a 10 per cent discount on scans offered by TAHMU. In addition, RWWA plans to refund up to half the costs for owners using advanced imaging to monitor health and soundness and protect the welfare of racehorses.”

The sponsorship is possible thanks to the one per cent of racing prizemoney set aside for animal welfare initiatives in the 2022 financial year.

TAHMU strives to provide the best possible service to the horse community, from pets through to the highest athletic disciplines, and the hospital will work closely with each horse’s vet to decide the most appropriate imaging techniques. Horses will typically be scanned on an outpatient basis, able to go home the same day or straight to their own vet for more tailored treatment.

Phase one of the new Advanced Standing Imagery Suite involves the installation of a Canon Large Bore CT on a Qalibra platform, as was recently installed at REC Equine Specialists in New South Wales.

This equine-specific CT was chosen because it provides the highest quality images, the best scanning flexibility and has dedicated support services available in Australia.

CT scans are expected to be available from mid-2022, including the subsidies for eligible racehorses. Phase two – standing MRI – is expected to follow shortly after.