Recurrent Airway Obstruction (Heaves)

By: Katie Jones, CVT­

With pastures dwindling this time of year, the quality of grass has diminished significantly; therefore, many of our horses are turning to round bales to fulfill their forage needs. With their heads buried into these dusty bales several respiratory problems can arise. Horses can go years without any problems, while others tend to have repeated respiratory problems. One of the most common causes of respiratory distress in horses is Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO).

horseinroundbale_0Recurrent Airway Obstruction, better known as Heaves, is an allergic response associated with inflammation and obstructive airway disease. In humans, this condition is similar to asthma. RAO is initiated by the inhalation of organic dusts (hay and bedding) that contain allergens, endotoxins, molds, and other small particles and substances that trigger inflammation in the lungs. Not all horses respond the same way to the stimulants; the age of the horse and their genetic disposition both appear to trigger negative responses. Horses prone to “heave episodes” can even react to the dust commonly found in good quality hay; it is not just an indicator of bad hay.

A heaves episode is ultimately triggered by exposure to the allergens listed above. However, when a horse most consistently living on pasture is brought into a stable for feeding they can show symptoms as soon as 6-8 hours after being brought in. RAO results from the horse developing bronchospasm (narrowing of airway) and mucus accumulation which can lead to remodeling of the airway wall. Remodeling to the airway will cause a permanent increase in the thickness of the walls, which decreases the elasticity of the lungs therefore affecting the horse’s ability to breath.

Horses experiencing a mild episode of heaves usually exhibit coughing associated with fig3 tracheaexercise, feeding, or airborne dust when the barn is swept. Sever episodes of heaves will appear as respiratory distress; an increased intolerance to exercise, flared nostrils, labored breathing, and occasionally nasal discharge. In most cases, a consistent history and a basic physical exam will provide enough information for a ROA diagnosis. A branchoalveolar lavage (BAL) can also be performed for more specific, in-depth information. To preform a BAL the doctor will “flush” the lungs with saline using a long tube inserted through their nostril. This flush will pick up fungal elements, white blood cells, or pneumonitis indicators. If the BAL confirms the presence of neutrophilic inflammation, it not only confirms the horse has a lower airway inflammation but the test can differentiate the cause of the inflammation.IMG_20151116_130359344

Treatment for horses suffering from unresolved chronic RAO includes a handful of medication options.   The main drugs used are corticosteroids (dexamethasone, prednisolone, or fluticasone) which work to reduce the inflammation in the lower airways, and bronchodilators (clenbuterol or albuterol) which relieve airway obstruction by dilating the airways. To help manage mild RAO cases, Anoka Equine is offering a new product called Heave Relieve.

Recurrent Airway Obstruction is a manageable condition. For horses showing signs, it is best to have the horse seen by your local veterinarian to prevent chronic damage. Many horses will only require a change in environment to manage their episodes. Consult with your local veterinarian for a complete diagnosis and the best treatment plan for your horse.



Veterinary Technicians

By: Katie Jones, CVT

When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.

~ A.D. Williams

176_anoka-equine_2012Anoka Equine has always had the health and well-being of the horse at the center of what we do. This idea resides at the heart of our entire staff, including our veterinary technicians. Veterinary technicians are the nurses of the veterinary field. Their roles were first introduced in the United States by the United States Air Force in 1951. This role was then introduced as a civilian program in 1961 at the State University of New York. Currently there are approximately 85,000 veterinary technician positions in the United States.

Based on the Minnesota Association of Veterinary Technicians, veterinary technicians “perform most duties related to animal care, including anesthesia, medical imaging, lab work, dentistry, surgical assisting, patient treatments, as well as client education; however [they] may not diagnose conditions, give a prognosis for conditions, perform surgery or prescribe medication.” At Anoka Equine, the role of the technician includes everything from handling the horse during a lameness exam to running anesthesia. During the day technicians can be seen taking radiographs (x-rays), scoping the upper airways or stomach, administering drugs, and assisting the doctor during appointments. Anoka Equine is a 24-hour referral clinic; therefore, when the client appointments are complete and the doors have been locked-up for the day, many times the duties of the doctors and technicians aren’t over.

191_anokaequine_May_2015Neonatal Care: During the foaling season (Feb-Aug) Anoka Equine assists with a large volume of neonatal cases; both in clinic and in the field. Care for these special foal cases can even begin before birth. For foals admitted to the clinic, the technicians are the first responders to make sure a catheter is placed, blood work is ran, and the treatment plan written up by the doctor is started and scheduled out for the day. Cases involving maladjusted foals require intenseive24 hour management, including: physical exams, feeding, fluids, oxygen, administering medications, and assisting the foal to stand or flipping them so they aren’t continuously lying on the same side. This specific type of care requires long hours and knowledge of what to look for if a foal is not improving. The biggest concern with neonatal care is they can change from improving/healthy looking to dramatically decreasing in health in a matter of hours. Due to this rapid change a physical exam is typically done every other hour to remark on any changes in attitude, manure, or vitals. Subtle changes can redirect the doctor’s treatment plans.

Emergency cases/Surgery: Colics situation rarely enter the clinic during business hours. Typically a doctor has been trying to manage their pain out in the field for an extended period of time, with no improvements before the decision is made to bring the horse into the clinic for close observation and fluids. If the horse’s pain has intensified throughout the day, most often there will be a technician at the clinic with the doctor to help admit the horse, start fluids, and run blood work. Once the horse is connected to fluids, the technician on-call will often stay with them to perform frequent physical exams to monitor any changes. If pain becomes unmanageable the conversation of surgery must be discussed. Colic surgery is a team operation; two doctors perform the surgery, a technician as the surgical nurse, and a technician managing anesthesia.

067_anokaequine_May_2015Anesthesia: At Anoka Equine, just like at many other clinics, technicians are the ones to perform anesthesia for surgical procedures. This is an area technicians are required to learn at school. Once our Anoka Equine technicians are comfortable with their duties at the clinic, anesthesia may become an interest for them and they will be taught by fellow technicians equine specific anesthesia. In addition, equine anesthesia is a common topic regularly covered at annual continuing education events, which broadens our knowledge base as well.

If the field of veterinary technology interests you, consider shadowing at local veterinary clinics to see exactly the job is like.  For more information regarding entering into the profession you can find school and certification information at the MAVT website (

Anoka Equine’s Technician Team

Shannon Gohr, CVT,  Anesthesia, Technician Manager
Shannon joined Anoka Equine in August of 2007. She graduated from Ridgewater College of Willmar in May 2007 with an Associate in Applied Science Degree / Veterinary Technician. Shannon grew up in a VERY small town west of St. Cloud which is where her family’s 10 horses are. She enjoys trail riding and doing parades with her horse Jet, spending time with her family and friends, and basically anything outdoors.


Kelsey Herrboldt, CVT
Kelsey jointed Anoka Equine in the spring of 2008 after graduating from the Minnesota School of Business with an A.A.S. in Veterinary Technology. Most of her time is spent at home with her wonderful family. Kelsey has two boys, Dallas and Tayden, with her boyfriend Todd.  They also have two cats, Ravy and Dooker, and a pug named E-gor. In her spare time you will find her and her boys at the barn with their Arabian gelding, Cisco.


Katie Jones, CVT, Anesthesia
Katie joined Anoka Equine in February 2011. She completed a Bachelors of Science in Animal  Science/ Pre-vet at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cites in May 2010. She went on to complete a A.A.S in Veterinary Technology at Argosy University and graduated in the fall 2011. In Katie’s free time she enjoys volleyball, photography, horse events, fishing, and traveling. She owns a husky, Luke, and horse, Turbo.

Brittany Aanerud, CVT
Brittany started at Anoka Equine in July of 2011 after graduating from North Dakota State University with a B.S. in Veterinary Technology. She grew up on a beef ranch outside of Bismarck, ND and enjoyed every minute of it. Outside of work Brittany enjoys riding her Quarter Horse “Doc”, snowboarding, reading, shopping, and being outdoors.


Katie Jo Hollis, Anesthesia

Katie Jo joined Anoka Equine March of 2012.  She graduated from MN school of Business, Blaine in June 2011 with an AAS in veterinary technology.  Katie Jo’s favorite hobby is gaming her grey Quarter Horse “Banjo” and working with young horses.  She also enjoys hunting, fishing, softball, and spending time with her family.  She also loves her 2 cats and her Blue Heeler X “Dixie”.

Dani Wiederholt, Night Technician

I was given the opportunity to work for Anoka Equine in November of 2014. I am scheduled to graduate from Minnesota School of Business in spring of 2015 majoring in Veterinary Technology. I was given my first horse at 8 years old, and they have been my life ever since. I have 2 quarter horses of my own, Karma and Wilbur that I game and compete with during the summer.  I enjoy spending time outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. I also have 3 cats, and my Mini Australian Shepherd Riley that I love dearly.  ​


Thank you to our amazing team of technicians at Anoka Equine.