University to support new diagnostic imaging subsidy for Victoria’s racehorses

University of Melbourne equine veterinary clinics will be instrumental in trialling Racing Victoria’s new subsidy scheme to offset the cost of advanced diagnostic imaging on Victorian Thoroughbreds.

U-Vet Werribee Equine Centre (U-Vet) and the Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital (GVEH) will each provide advanced imaging services to Thoroughbred owners and trainers as part of the Diagnostic Imaging Subsidy Program.

The program, which commences 1 July 2021, has been launched by Racing Victoria to help minimise the risk of serious limb injuries to Thoroughbred racehorses by using advanced veterinary technology for early detection and intervention.

U-Vet is equipped with technology to provide scintigraphy, high-field MRI and standing CT scans, while GVEH offers scintigraphy.

Scintigraphy is a bone scan where a radioactive dye is injected into the patient and gamma camera records ‘hot spots’ – increased bone activity and blood-flow – produced by increased uptake of the substance into the skeleton.

High-field MRI is performed under general anaesthesia and uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create high-quality, three-dimensional bone and soft-tissue images. MRIs show physical change occurring during injury and multiple images of the areas of concern are collected.

The standing CT allows horses to be imaged extremely rapidly, standing, under sedation, without the need for anaesthesia, and is the first of its kind in Australia and only the third in the world. It rapidly captures details images of the horse’s limbs, head and upper neck. Images can be viewed in multiple planes and at multiple angles. The quality and contrast of images created by CT is far superior to standard x-rays.

Equine limb GVEH

Head of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Melbourne Professor Josh Slater said: “This is the latest in a long history of collaboration with Racing Victoria to support Thoroughbred wellbeing in Victoria. We’re pleased to participate in a program that has the potential to protect a great number of racehorses from injury.”

Eligible horses’ owners and trainers will ultimately be able to recoup 50 per cent of their costs (a potential saving of up to $1600) when accessing advanced diagnostic imaging for the nominated horse through a participating practice.

To be eligible for the program, an owner or trainer must have their horse undergo a lameness examination by a veterinarian. If the horse presents with lameness then it can be considered for the program, with an analysis of the examination results and horse’s history conducted by the veterinarian to determine if and what advanced diagnostic imaging is required.

To help the owner or trainer cover the cost of their initial assessment, they will also be eligible for a specialist assessment subsidy of up to $300 upon referral by the veterinarian to U-Vet or GVEH.

Furthermore, an additional subsidy of up to $200 for a horse requiring hospitalisation for a minimum of one overnight stay at U-Vet or GVEH will also be available to the owner or trainer.

Victoria’s General Manager Veterinary Services Grace Forbes said: “We hope this financial support for owners and trainers will lead to more horses undergoing advanced diagnostic imaging, which has multiple benefits. It importantly helps reduce the risk of more serious injury through early intervention, while also allowing us to develop a deeper understanding of lameness in our racehorses.”

The program will be trialled throughout the remainder of 2021 and is open to Thoroughbreds that are listed as active or spelling on their stable return and have been domiciled in Victoria for a minimum of three months prior to nominating the program.

For those horses approved to enter the program, these subsidies will be rebated by the participating practice delivering the service, with the balance of costs to be met by the owner or trainer as traditionally occurs.