By Jackie Bellamy-Zions

May 21, 2020 - Lameness is a huge focus for Dr. Judith Koenig as a clinician, researcher, and instructor at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC). Koenig is also a rider with a keen interest in helping grassroots riders and upcoming high-performance athletes. In the accompanying video, Dr. Koenig explains her current research endeavouring to heal tendon injuries faster, and also takes some time to talk about prevention.

Stimulating stem cells to heal faster through the use of shock wave therapy is part of the exciting new research being conducted at the OVC by Dr. Koenig. They were investigating whether shock wave therapy performed after injecting stem cells into a tendon will result in better quality healing. Then they came up with the idea of pretreating stem cells with shock wave prior to injection. 

Dr. Koenig is also leading a clinical trial, currently enrolling Thoroughbred racehorses. The trial performs repeated injection of stem cells that have been harvested from umbilical cord blood, frozen, and stored in Dr. Thomas Koch’s lab. These stem cells are from unrelated horses. Funding from the Ontario Equestrian Federation has enabled OVC researchers to also follow a control group treated with platelet rich plasma as a comparison for this study.

Reduced healing time is an obvious benefit to the welfare of the horse, and of course the horse owner will be pleased about a quicker return to their training régime.

Realizing many will soon be in the position of starting horses back into training after a significant amount of time off, Koenig offers some important advice. 

“You need to allow at least a six-week training period for the athletes to be slowly brought back and build up muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness,” says Koenig. “Both stamina and muscle mass need to be retrained.” She stressed the importance in checking the horse’s legs for heat and swelling before and after every ride, and picking out the feet. A good period of walking is required in the warm-up and cool down, and riders need to pay attention to soundness in the walk before commencing their work out.

Want to learn more about lameness? Equine Guelph has free healthcare tools: Lameness Lab and Journey through the Joints  

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

Judith Koenig - Lameness Research & Prevention Tips

Learn more about Dr. Koenig and her research 

Judith Koenig, Mag vet med, Dr med vet, DVSc, is originally from Austria and came to Canada 1996, after graduating from vet school, to gain some research experience and complete the research for her MSc. Following a Large Animal internship at the OVC, she went to Oregon State University where she did a one-year Large Animal fellowship. The year in Oregon gave her good exposure to Western Pleasure horses as well as Walking horses, which complemented her previous experience with Sports and Racehorse practice.

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Judith came back to the OVC where she did a three-year large animal surgery residence with a concurrent graduate degree (DVSc). Judith became board certified with both the American and European College of Veterinary Surgeons and started to work as faculty in Large Animal Surgery in 2003. Since then she has been working half of the time as a surgeon with a strong interest in Equine Sports Medicine, and the other half as researcher and teacher. In 2016, Judith became a board-certified diplomate for equine sports medicine and rehabilitation.

Judith’s main area of interest in research is tissue healing, particularly wound and tendon healing. She has investigated the use of different modalities (for example, shockwave or stem cells) to see if they accelerate tissue healing, and which cellular pathways are affected. This will help to direct treatment of tendon injuries and wounds in horses.

Photo: Canstock/Virgonira

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