Thursday, August 21, 2008

A day in Costa Rica

We just got back from a week long trip to Costa Rica. I heard from a friend that American airlines was going to change their reward miles program so I should use them now. We wanted to go back to Costa and take all the kids and allow me to surf during the BIG season. We flew into San Jose and rented a 7 passenger SUV and headed into the mountains. We went up to the Arenal volcano and went to hot springs at "Baldi ". The kids said it was one of the highlights of the trip with many pools throughout the lush gardens that averaged 104 degrees from the volcanic heat. We then headed up to the Hacienda Guachipelin , a hotel/ranch up on the side of another volcano.
Here is one of my emails back during the trip that i was asked to post....remember that I did these at night after dinner and several Imperial's (local beer).

It's day 3 on the Adventura Costa Rica. We are at the Haciedna Guachipelin for another nite. Today we were up at 7am and really stiff from the climb up and jump off the waterfall yesterday but this is kinda an ECO-hotel so the hot water is solar and if someone showers at night then there is no hot water in the this morning. We had breakfast , more gallo pinto....pronounced "Guy-yo peen-toe" beans and rice. We have it every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it's typical costa rican food. At 8am we were at the stables for the horse back ride to the hot springs,mud baths and volcano. I haven't been on a horse in many years and todays ride ,1 1/2 hours meant serious butt pain all the way around. The trail was steep and incredibly rocky...the horses slipped constantly with one going down to his knees. Sarahs horse we all renamed "El-Diablo" since it got into a kicking bout with Beths horse and bit Dani's ....the lead Gaucho had to discipline him( needed Dr Dick to do some ass kickin). When we went as far as the horses could go we dismounted and and then hiked 3-4 miles up the volcano , had to cross some suspect suspension bridges, a long tree over a gorge like Indiana Jones and cross a set of rapids going rock to BS here this river was the real deal. The water fall at the top was awesome and very cold..oddly only about a kilometer away we came to the bubbling pools of volcanic mud ...248 dont get in these. We went by so many you lose count and the kids were pissed at this point....the joy being sucked out of them by the shear work load of getting up this volcano.
Beth and I were having a pays to be in shape. Horse back down part of the mountain in the rain to the Symbiosis Spa....a hot mud bath spa on the side of the volcano. Oh by the way...they forgot to bring the lunches.....cranking the kids P.O.-meter into the redline area. We first were told to spend 10 minutes in the sauna (to open our pores)...we all dutifully piled in as they shut the door....jeez it's really hot in there. Serious squawking at this point....very concerned about breathing and how much time is left before they open the door. Every breath is an effort. Polly , Beth and Mac move down to the floor... where it is supposedly not as hot and there was a rumor that there was more air . I stayed on the middle bench with Murphy, Sarah and Dani on the top row.
At the 5 minute mark it is deathly quite as every one concentrates on breathing.....then Murphy quietly says "saftey"....(remember we have all been on a constant diet of gallo pinto) Sarah blurts out " Oh God No Murphy...but it was to late. The acrid sulfur smell made the volcanic mud pits smell like fresh laundry. I'm thinking about what the spa director said about opening your pores and what this is going to do to my skin. I'm certain the last molecules of oxygen are now gone. Once out of the sauna we were marched over to the hot mud pit to cover ourselves with hot volcanic mud....again I'm rehashing the whole open pore thing. Dutifully we cover every square inch of skin with mud.....and wait another 10 minutes. Now you can't actually expect to put mud and the feral children together and not expect wasnt long in coming. It was sort of a Coasta Rican mud wrestling extravaganza. The British family at the mud bath at the same time were somewhat taken aback...."Oh Dear God". To top things off ....the showers quit working. What to do....naturally we hit the hot springs and to nobody's surprise instantly changed the color of the water to a deep mud brown. That mud doesnt come off very well either. We then ...back in our wet clothes....with residual mud attached..... got back on the horses for the ride back down...another hour. When we got back ...after all this Beth and I decided on a couples massage.....we loaded up on lunch (more gallo pinto) and some muscle relaxants ( coconut rum) and headed to the massage. It was a man and a woman ( who had striking witch-like features)...usually I get the dude because beth is uncomfortable with guys giving massages, I am also uncomfortable with guys giving me massages and actually it ranks right up there with witches. Well, I got the witch. Lights dimmed and under a towel she began working on this point in time..... so did the gallo pinto. I was rumbling audibly and I think she thought she could help and started working diligently on my ab's. Bad idea. I was able to somehow hold back the tide but it was like someone squeezing an unopened bag of chips....the kind made with Olestra. She then started lighting candles....I'm not sure if this is some wicken behaviour or if she thinks striking matches is going to help. Next she applies some liquid to my face and returns to the massage....rumblings now under control. After about 15 minutes she wipes the stuff off my face....with a warm wet cloth....I now realize that this is some kind of skin ex foliation treatment.
Sort of a cross between the gelatinous rust remover used at paint and body shops and a hoof rasp. I felt like Ben Stiller in Mystery Men as Captain Furious...." heart rate rising...blood pressure temperature approaching the surface of the sun". OMG.....WTF.....this @#%& burns. If I have any skin cancer it is now gone....along with every wrinkle...blemish and any distinguishing scars. The rumbling starts Beth hears it....I think about saying "safety" . My mind is rapidly working on the physics... the open far from my ass to the candle and back to the volatile liquid on my face. This is going to be really bad. I think Cruella figures this out and they both leave...the concentration on my face evident ......the volcano do you say "safety in spanish........Beth is convulsing under her towel and in the distance there is snickering on the other side of the door with a Spanish accent. I have Beth check my face....not sure if she will recognize me....I feel like a burn victim. We get dressed and they are waiting for us on the other side of the door.
They are very concerned when we go to walk back to the room " you are very hot....perhaps sick" they wrap us in towels ...I want to tell him that Dr Mengela just deep fried my face..of course I'm hot... he wants to come with us and use an umbrella
so we don't get worse...but we wave him off and return to our room, where the numbing anesthetic qualities of coconut rum awaits.
Tonight for guessed pinto

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Piroplasmosis in Florida

There has been a report of piroplasmosis at an Ocala area Hospital. Here is an excerpt from the FAEP report.

Equine Piroplasmosis (EP) is a blood-borne parasitic disease which is caused by two

organisms, Theileria equi (formerly Babesia equi) and Babesia caballi. It is primarily

transmitted to horses by ticks; however, the disease can be spread mechanically from

animal to animal by contaminated needles. The disease was eradicated from Florida in the 1980's and the tick species generally believed to transmit this disease in other countries have not been identified in Florida in many years. This disease is not directly contagious from one horse to another but requires direct blood transfer. Human infection with equine piroplasmosis is extremely rare. Acutely affected horses can have depression, fever, anemia, jaundiced mucous membranes and low platelet counts. Equine Piroplasmosis can also cause horses to have roughened hair coats, constipation, and colic.

In its milder form, Equine Piroplasmosis causes horses to
appear weak and show lack of appetite. Some horses become chronic carriers of the disease. As EP is considered a foreign animal disease and is reportable in Florida, we are asking veterinarians to report any horses suspect for the disease. Reporting can be done Monday- Friday 8:00am-5:00pm by calling (850) 410-0900 or faxing to (850) 410-0915. After hours reporting may be done by calling (800) 342-5869 or via email to

Thus far none of the ticks tested have been found to be positive that is a good thing. The BIG question is ...where did it come from". Did the infected tick somehow make it into Florida from outside the country or is it possible that the organism was not fully eradicated 20 years ago like we thought.

As Veterinarians we must constantly be on the look-out for potential diseases such as this. It is possible that cases have gone undiagnosed that were thought to be something else. The case in Ocala presented as a Hemolytic crisis which could be caused by several diseases, fortunately someone was looking and spotted characteristic changes on a blood smear.

Since EP can look like something benign like a rough hair coat and weight loss it is important to point out changes that you see and look for the cause....don't just let it go.

Heres what you need to do.

Recommendations for Your Equine Clients: Monitor your horse for the presence of ticks. Use commercially available topical products labeled for ticks if your horse is in an area where tick infestation is a problem. Most of these products are synthetic pyrethrins. Include an avermectin product in your deworming program to provide systemic treatment for ticks. Ask your veterinarian if you are unsure.

If you find large numbers of ticks or suspect piroplasmosis, please contact your

veterinarian. Do not share needles between animals during the administration of any medication mor vaccinations. EP and other diseases can be spread by the introduction of blood cells from an infected animal into an uninfected animal during routine administration of injectable medications. Continue your normal equine activities.

Additional updates and information will be posted to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Animal Industry web site at:

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in horses

I had an interesting call this week about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in horses. I know there is much debate about the issue in people and actually a lot of research that is still remarkably inconclusive. When you do a google search for chronic fatigue syndrome, horses , you come up with
432,000 hits. Almost every page references reports from Dr. Walter Tarello in Italy.
If you have read anything I have written then you know I'm a skeptic and with this one my bullshit-ometer is redlining. I have read his publications and have some serious questions as to scientific method and the conclusions made ( much less how it even got published). I do not doubt that these cases are sick, they have fever, weight loss and lethargy. What I do doubt is the diagnosis and the way it was arrived at.
"After staining
with the Wright technique, slides were microscopically examined (x100) showing the presence of
micrococci-like organisms on 5-6% of Red Blood Cells, and the absence of alternative causes of
chronic fatigue in horses (Babesia and Ehrlichia spp.) Taken together these observations led to a
diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome."
Excuse Me! That is really weak and doesn't stand up to the bright light of scientific rigor. The presence of "micrococci-like organisms" on red blood cells is a real stretch without concurrent hemolysis and positive blood cultures. They look a lot like Howell-Jolly bodies to me but they could also be contamination or stain precipatate.....who knows. Another paper did state there was a positive blood culture for Staph Intermedius in 2 of 5 birds showing vague symptoms. Thats only 40% of cases and different bacteria was found. I have to question contamination . If you suspect septicemia from Staph then appropriate antibiotic treatment dictated by sensitivity testing would be the standard course in any hospital. Instead Dr Tarello choses to treat these with an Arsenical (thiacetarsamide sodium (Caparsolate) the drug that years ago was used to treat heart worm disease in dogs. If I tried to pass that diagnosis by my Chief of Service or the ACVIM I would have been laughed out of the Hospital. There obviously needs to be more science bout starting here. If you suspect Staph spp adherence to RBCs then why not do IFA (immuno florescent antibody) testing and see if that is what it is ....instead of guessing. You then have to prove that this sepsis is actually causing the symptoms you are seeing and be able to reproduce it. Before I get on this band wagon I will have to see some REAL science and not ...since I don't know what else it could be so it has to be this.....kind of pseudo-science.
Now I'm sure I stirred the pudden on this one and everyone will now call me a heretic and a blasphemer...but when I went to scientist school the hand book sez.....don't guess.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in horses....I don't buy

Gasoline prices.......Politicians won't drill even if Gas hits $10

I came across this video that is absolutely shocking from C-SPAN. I'm sure the high gas prices are hurting everyone, but I can tell you first hand that it is brutal for Equine Veterinarians. With four Vets driving into 5 counties the fuel costs are staggering and forcing us to increase our trip charges.
I find it odd that we are virtually the only country that so restricts the amount of domestic energy production. We complain about electrical shortages in California, yet they have not built a new power plant in over 20 years. We complain about high gas prices but haven't built a new refinery in over 30 years and currently are at maximum production. Each year we import more of our energy and transfer more and more of our wealth to other countries. I don't know if the final answer is increased coal production (we have 27% of the worlds coal deposits), nuclear, wind,solar, hydrogen
our geothermal....but I think we need an "ALL OF THE ABOVE " approach for now. Over the next decades the correct technology will emerge the winner, but we can't wait around for it and we sure can't have some politician try to pick the correct one. Start drilling NOW and watch as the price comes down from decreased's down $25 /barrel since the presidential veto on off shore drilling was lifted. Congress needs to do the same.
Watch this video and you will see how deeply entrenched the Democrat party is in their opposition to new oil exploration. It will really piss you off.