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Picture this: Cell phone photos help with equine emergencies
Educate your clients on how to snap good images of what's ailing their horses to send to you


DVM360 MAGAZINE


Find the detail

One can achieve sharpness and detail with correct lighting, but this is also where the capabilities of various cell phones come into play. "Every phone camera has a minimum focus for sharpness, and users of this technology can figure this out by moving the camera back and forth while focused on a stationary object," Benjamin says.

When the image is sharpest, you've determined the point of optimum focus. Additionally, some companies are now offering special cases that fit over certain cell phone cameras and convert the normal lens to a macro lens. "These special lenses are good for close-ups and produce a sharp clean image," Benjamin says.

Cell phone cameras traditionally function poorly in low-light situations because they have slow lenses. "Low-light results have been the drawback of point-and-shoot cell phone cameras and even some professional model cameras in digital photography until recently," Benjamin says. "Sensors have been getting better, and the next generation of all cameras should be better at capturing sharply in low light." Additionally, advances in motion stabilization technology will make cell phone videos and pictures sharper and less blurry.

There's a substantial time delay between the camera "click" and image capture in most cell phones, so it's occasionally difficult to get a good picture of a horse that will not stand still. Holding the camera at arm's length introduces motion in some cases and will harm picture quality. Benjamin suggests simply holding the camera braced against a stationary object and keeping it as steady as possible. Try to take multiple exposures as well, he advises, so you can review them and pick the best and sharpest one to use.

Because size and depth are important to wound evaluation, it's a good idea to include a comparison object in the photos. These objects can actually be taped to the skin around the injury. Clients should place a coin or pen or other common object near the cut to give you an idea of the length. Place a Q-Tip in a puncture wound, when appropriate, to give an idea to depth and direction. A series of photographs showing how the wound responds to flexion and extension of the leg can also be important since many suturing decisions on lower leg injuries hinge on how much tension will be placed on a potential suture line during limb motion. Having your clients provide you with this information may allow you to be better prepared and better equipped—bringing casting material to immobilize a joint or calling a farrier for assistance with foot support—when you arrive at an emergency.

The future of communication

As cell phone photographs and videos become better, sharper and more informative, it stands to reason that they will increasingly become part of the communication network between horse owners and veterinarians. Already, radiographs, ultrasonograms and thermography scans can be sent via e-mail or text attachments to cell phones and larger screens, and the ability to magnify digital images without losing quality will make evaluation of these images increasingly commonplace.

If a pre-purchase exam takes place in Germany for one of your clients, you can evaluate a video and radiographs sent to your phone within the hour. Trainers evaluate videos of horses working on tracks in other states taken and transmitted by cell phones and are able to immediately respond with instructions to assistants. Veterinarians can make remote lameness diagnosis in a similar fashion by instructing assistants or technicians to flex a horse and then observe the cell phone recorded trot out or hoof tester evaluation or other parts of a standard examination.

It's truly the digital age and, in effect, we will all have to become better photographers and videographers because the images we send to trainers, potential buyers, clients or fellow veterinarians will become a larger part of a horse's medical record. These images will play an increasing role in medical decision-making. The quality and usefulness of those images will only be as good as the skills of the person behind the lens.

Dr. Marcella is an equine practitioner in Canton, Ga.


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Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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