Practitioners in the field can use digital cameras to document cases of trauma and to produce extremely accurate records for
the identification of horses.
Video use during a prepurchase examination can help practitioners document any irregularities for both medical and legal reasons.
Insurance companies also like video records of problems.
Skin conditions, ocular lesions and tumors are especially well suited to monitoring via digital photography since progression
and changes in size can be easily recorded. A good photograph of a squamous cell carcinoma near the canthas of an eye can
be used for diagnosis, treatment and as a means of monitoring recovery. Digital cameras allow the user to send photographs
via the Internet to virtually anywhere. The equine practitioner can therefore use a digital camera to take pictures of a lesion
and then to send those photos to an expert for evaluation.
This method of information exchange greatly speeds up the current process of sending hard-copy medical records to local experts
and it greatly expands the number of experts that can be used for second opinions.
Radiography can be handled as digital information as well. The newer digital radiology systems will simply let the practitioner
send the entire X-ray, but for veterinarians using standard radiograph systems, a digital picture of an X-ray must be taken.
Good quality radiographs are needed first, but then a simple digital photo taken of such a radiograph on a light box can be
immediately sent for consultation. Thus, digital cameras can improve both the speed and accuracy of diagnosis.
The complexities of equine gait are made much clearer through the use of slow motion video.
The distance that a foot travels and the manner in which the hoof strikes the ground are much easier to appreciate in slow
motion. Jaye Perry, a farrier in Georgia, feels that digital video is an extremely useful tool.
"With this modality," says Perry, "The human eye can see what it cannot in live action, thus pinpointing details missed which
may result in musculoskeletal injury to the horse over the horse's career. By seeing these small details in digital review,
it helps train your brain to look for the minute distinctions."
Rehabilitation is another area that lends itself well to the use of digital photography.
Small subtle changes in a horse or a human that is undergoing a rehabilitative process can be signs of enormous progress.
By measuring stride length on a computer screen you might find that a rehab horse's right hind foot is tracking up by 1.5
inches toward where it should be. This small change might well be unnoticed by the eye of the average horse owners who might
then get frustrated because of the lack of progress with the rehabilitation program.
If these owners had seen that his hind end was indeed moving somewhat better, then they might have been more hopeful about
his progress and would have been more likely to continue following the prescribed exercise program.
Which to buy
But even if you are sold on the idea of what a digital camera or recorder can do for your practice, you still have to buy
There are thousands of different cameras currently available ranging in price from $100 to $1,000.
Many come with more "bells and whistles" than others, but much of the difference between cameras has to do with pixels. Pixels
are the individual spots of information (color and detail) that are stored in an image. Pixels translate into resolution.
The more pixels that your camera is able to capture, the larger and higher the resolution of your photos.
Most veterinary cameras have a resolution of 2.1 to 3.4 megapixels but are available in the 5 to 6 pixel range. It is generally
recommended to purchase the maximum number of pixels that you can afford.
Some cameras come with zoom options. Digital cameras use memory cards in place of film. Images are taken and stored in the
memory in the individual card. This card is then removed and placed into a computer so that the card's information can be
downloaded into regular files.
A card of 16-MB (megabytes) would provide enough memory to store one uncompressed image and up to 17 compressed ones. Digital
images are either compressed or uncompressed which refers to the computer's method of storing pixels. Uncompressed images
are sharper and clearer. When files (pictures) are compressed, the computer attempts to drop out or remove some pixels in
each photo. This allows the computer to more quickly send or store that information.
Compressed images, however, must have the missing pixels "filled in" before the photo can be restored to accurate size and
sometimes mistakes can be made at this point.
Memory cards of much greater storage potential can be purchased for your camera and they will allow the user to take and store
many more photos without having to download the card so quickly.
Second set of eyes
Digital cameras allow trainers and veterinarians to see what our eyes are too slow to see and that can sometimes be very surprising.
Digital cameras used with treadmills will likely yield the next new important information of interest to equine practitioners.
An old saying states that one will miss more things by not looking for them rather than by not knowing about them.
Digital cameras are providing veterinarians with a means of obtaining information that would not have been available in any
The things that will be learned about how a horse moves could influence the way we trim and shoe, train, jump or perform in
any discipline. Digital cameras and digital video truly are a new way of looking at things.