More Surgery (and More Donations) Needed for Gunshot Wound Horse in Massachusetts

by Fran Jurga | 19 January 2010 | The Jurga Report at

Tufts routinely uses its new 16-slice CT scanner for dental problems in horses; the sophisticated imaging system will be used to examine micro-fractures in Picaro’s jaw. Here you see a pony anesthetized for CT scanning at Tufts. (Tufts web site photo)

Picaro, a horse brought last week to the Cummings School’s Hospital for Large Animals in North Grafton, Massachusetts with gunshot wounds, will undergo additional testing and a possible second surgery tomorrow, according to a news release provided today by the university.

This horse at the University of Pretoria in South Africa is having a CT scan done on its jaw.

A surgery on Friday to remove bullets from Picaro’s head revealed that the horse had sustained several hairline fractures to his jaw that were not apparent upon initial examination. Picaro spent the weekend recovering from that procedure, in which surgeons also removed his severely injured right eye and bullet fragments.

A surgical procedure may be required to fix his lower jawbone and allow it to heal.

Picaro’s team of veterinary surgeons, anesthesiologists, interns, residents, technicians, and fourth-year students will examine the extent of the mandibular fractures tomorrow using the Cummings School’s new 16-slice Computerized Tomography (CT) scanner. Pending the outcome of the CT scan, the team will then recommend the best course of action for the horse.

This plastinated tissue slice, prepared by Dr. Christoph von Horst of HC Biovision in Germany, shows a single slice of tissue through the head of a horse. Plastination tissue preservation is a relatively new procedure that many veterinary schools are using to teach anatomy to students and to be able to visualize “real” tissue compared with what is seen in MRI or CT images. Sometimes entire organs or small animals are plastinated. Photo ? HC Biovision.

“Our hope is that Picaro proves to be a good surgical candidate, but it remains to be determined whether surgery can fix his jaw,” said Carl A. Kirker-Head, MA, Vet MB, the associate professor of surgery in charge of the horse’s care at the Cummings School. “He deserves the best quality of life, and we don’t know yet whether the surgery would be able to provide him with this outcome. The CT scan will go a long way towards telling us.”

Nearly $1,000 in donations in the gray Paso Fino stallion’s honor came in over the weekend. Estimated costs of the horse’s care will approach $10,000 if tomorrow’s surgery goes ahead.

Anyone interested in making donations to the Cumming School’s Hospital for Large Animals in honor of Picaro may send checks made out to “Trustees of Tufts College” and mail them to: Office of Development & Alumni Relations, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, 200 Westboro Road, North Grafton, MA 01536. For links to online giving, please visit

The Hospital for Large Animals is still not allowing Picaro to have visitors, given the critical nature of his wounds.

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