Vet clinic opens equine surgery center
The patient was getting drowsy, his eyelids fluttering as he struggled to stay awake. But it was tough. Spike, a palomino yearling, had received his first dose of sedative through a catheter, and the medicine going through his system was making him mighty sleepy.It would take only about an hour for equine surgeon Dr. Tom Bohanon, vet technician Penny Gentile, and Colorado Mountain College veterinary student Joann Tuohy to tranquilize Spike, perform surgery to alleviate his club foot, and move the yearling into recovery. Spike’s front left club foot is an ailment that, left unchecked, could cause him to become permanently lame. Glenwood Veterinary Clinic’s new 3,200-square-foot equine surgical building has been open less than a month, and already dozens of horses have clomped through the center’s large double doors, for everything from emergency colic surgery to fracture repair.
“Before, the scenario for horse owners was to go to Grand Junction or the Front Range for the type of procedures we can do here now,” said Bohanon.The surgical center joins several other buildings on the Glenwood Vet Center’s property. Tucked away on Grand Avenue across from Rivers Restaurant in south Glenwood, the clinic has been treating the area’s large and small animals since 1936. Bohanon joined veterinarians Dr. Doug Coffman, Dr. Dennis Luedke and Dr. Rocky Mease last year when the foursome determined an experienced equine surgeon – and a facility to match – were needed in the area. Time is crucialFor Spike’s owner Martha Collison, who owns Skyline Ranch and Kennels in Carbondale with Darlyne Woodward, the new surgery building – and Bohanon’s arrival in Glenwood – is “absolutely marvelous.””We are unbelievably fortunate to have this kind of quality right here,” Collison said. “We simply don’t have to travel to Grand Junction, Denver or C.S.U. anymore. Instead of traveling at least two hours, we’re maybe 20 minutes away from a top surgeon and equine center.”Bohanon said some basic equine surgery is available at other veterinary clinics, but Glenwood Vet Clinic’s new facility offers more than 50 procedures, from basic to the most complex.”Before, the equipment just wasn’t available regionally, especially if there were complications during surgery,” said Bohanon.Time can often mean life or death in an ill horse’s life. Collison said she knows what it’s like to lose a horse. She and Woodward had two extremely ill horses that died on the way to a surgical facility in Grand Junction.
“We’re delighted with Bohanon, and are completely confident our horses will receive the best care available right here in Glenwood,” Collison added. Home just minutes awayBy the time Spike got his second tranquilizer shot, he was down for the count – literally.Standing in the facility’s fully padded induction and recovery room, Bohanon, and the clinic’s vet assistants, Gentile and Tuohy, guided the little horse into a corner, swinging a padded door against his right side, turning Spike into a sort of yearling sandwich. The little horse collapsed softly onto the padded, rubberized floor once the full effect of the tranquilizer took hold.From that point, the medical staff moved quickly, placing hobbles – or straps – on Spike’s legs, drawing them together. The hobbles were connected to a mechanical hoist that lifted Spike off the floor – upside down – and across the room to the surgical table. Spike lay on his back, feet in the air, tube down his throat, his heart beat monitor rhythmically beeping. As Tuohy prepped Spike’s left leg, washing it thoroughly with antiseptic soap, Bohanon arranged his instruments on a surgical table and rolled it next to the horse. He made a small incision, no more than two inches long, and found the check ligament, a white strip the consistency of a rubber band. It is that ligament – too short and inflexible – that is causing Spike’s club foot. Slicing the ligament allows the foot to eventually return to its proper position.
After slicing the ligament, Bohanon searched for any remaining ligament fragments, and closed the incision with stitches he’ll remove later. Bohanon explained that the gap in Spike’s cut ligament will grow back over the next 30 days, and with proper exercise, it will fill in with scar tissue, lengthening the ligament and allowing Spike’s foot and leg to grow normally. After spending the night in a stall at the center, Spike was ready to make the short trip home to Carbondale on Wednesday afternoon.”We’re thrilled to see him,” said Collison.