June 13, 2023

Scoping From The Comfort Of Home

Scoping can be a wonderful diagnostic tool, and it can aid in the treatment of a number of ailments. From airway pathology to gastric ulcers, this procedure can help vets head off emergencies and alleviate equine pain. So, what’s stopping so many owners from scoping?

The answer may be that so many of them still see scoping as a pricey procedure that can only take place at an emergency facility where they’d have to trailer in. For Countryside clients, those days are over. Our practice now owns two video scopes that are fully portable, so we can come straight to your facility and treat your horse in the comfort of your barn.

The technology has become fairly streamlined. Our upper airway scope is 1 1/2 meters, and our gastroscope measures a little over three meters. Bluetooth technology makes each of them nearly wireless, and clients can look at the airway or gastrointestinal tract with us on an Ipad screen.​


The situation we will focus on the most in this piece is gastric ulcers, and then we'll tell you about some of the other procedures where scoping is helpful. At Countryside, we can't over recommend scoping for ulcers. Did you know that various studies suggest that 60 to 90% of horses have these painful lesions at some point in their life.

Ulcer symptoms can range from mild colic signs, to girthiness and under saddle behavioral issues. Humans need to see food, or smell food to produce stomach acid, horses aren’t designed in the same way, they produce acid all the time. During performance, ulcers can be particularly painful because of the sloshing of acid in an empty stomach. This can cause subtle performance issues as the focus is placed on the pain and not the task at hand.

A gastroscopy procedure allows us to see exactly where ulcers are located in the stomach so we can treat appropriately. For horses that are shown heavily, it’s not a bad idea to scope before every competition season in order to ensure there are no ulcers to weaken performance.

Diagnose First

We’ve all heard the story of the seasoned instructor telling his or her students to go ahead and treat for ulcers in a symptomatic horse. While we like to see owners being proactive, there’s a pretty big flaw in this approach: Treatment for ulcers can get pricey in a hurry. It’s important to know whether or not your horse actually has the issue before introducing an expensive medication, not to mention the fact that we really shouldn’t be medicating horses if they don’t actually need it. We can also perform rechecks to ensure the resolution of ulcers prior to stopping treatment - not all ulcers fully heal with 30 days of treatment.

This is why I recommend getting some insight with a gastroscope before assuming your girthy horse has stomach pain. Yes, it’s an added cost, but if we don’t find ulcers, you’ll save money in the long run.​

Here are a few other uses for our portable scopes:

  1. Choke cases: if there’s something stuck in your horse’s esophagus, not only can we identify the object, but we can sometimes actually retrieve it with a grabber attachment on the gastroscope.
  2. Biopsy of small intestine tissue: if we suspect inflammatory bowel disease, we can take a sample with the gastroscope by accessing the duodenum.
  3. Hysteroscopy: we can use the ultrasound scope to view the uterus in reproductive procedures.
  4. Airway samples: This is where our airway scope comes in handy. Sometimes in the past, when we needed to obtain an airway sample to diagnose ailments like pneumonia and upper airway infections, we had to perform a transtracheal wash. This procedure involved making a hole in the trachea. The scope is far less invasive and much safer for the horse.
  5. Finding pathogens: We can also use the airway scope to swab or treat the guttural pouches when we suspect a horse may be harboring a communicable disease.

Countryside added the portable scopes to our bank of equipment, and we hope our horse owners find it easier to schedule scoping procedures now. Scoping has proven to be an invaluable tool in diagnostics and sometimes even treatment, and now that we can do it at clients’ farms, it has become accessible to nearly everyone.

Article by: Liz Crumbly