This month we are introducing you to our Equine Ambassadors. Accomplished professionals in the fields of equine health that have partnered with Hi-Pro Feeds and Alfa-Pro to share their knowledge and experience with our customers. This week, we spotlight Dr. Dustin McElwee of Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, TX.
Growing up in New Boston, TX, Dr. McElwee developed a passion for horses very early on. His grandfather was a farrier, and Dustin travelled all over East Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana helping him shoe horses. “From the time I was probably 13 until I left home for college, I spent most of my free time with him horseshoeing at ranches and going to various equine events to work on the horses.” He explains. When he wasn’t travelling with is grandfather, he was involved in agriculture at school, 4-H events, raising Brahman show heifers, and doing livestock judging.
It was through livestock judging that he was exposed to Tarleton State University, ultimately attending there from 1999 to 2003. “I loved Tarleton a lot.” Dustin says. He started out as an ag education major for agricultural services and development but switched before the end of his first year to animal science, eventually attending Texas A&M University for vet school.
“Vet school is basically like drinking water through a fire hose” Dr. McElwee jokes “There’s just so much information to take in. All you can do is your best to function and not be overwhelmed. But Texas A&M has a good mixed practice education that prepares you well for being a small-town vet.”
In addition to drinking from that fire hose, Dr. McElwee worked part time for a farrier, assisting him in pulling shoes, trimming feet, and other tasks. It was this experience that turned his head toward equine medicine. “The man I worked for talked to me a bit about how beneficial it would be for an equine vet to have as much knowledge as a farrier had of the equine foot.” He explains “I have found that advice to be very true. It’s served me well as an equine vet.”
Not only did this advice led to a career as an equine vet, Dustin also completed the American Farriers Association certified farrier evaluation before finishing vet school. “I wanted to further my knowledge of equine foot anatomy, as well as in depth shoe knowledge and practical skill. I continue to take care of my own horses’ feet to this day.” He says, proudly.
After graduation, Dr. McElwee got a job working at Brock Vet, and has remained there ever since. “That’s quite unusual, actually.” He says, “Everyone I know from school only spent two or three years at their first job before moving on.”
Why stay so long in one place? Dr. Brock, himself, is a huge motivation as well as the practice itself. Dustin explains “Dr. Brock has been a great friend and a great mentor. I’ve learned so much about how to deal with horses and people. It’s an incredible practice, and we have clients that come in from two or three hours away pretty much every day, and we can offer anything a horse owner may want or need.”
Of course, there’s also the work itself. When asked what he loves most about equine practice, Dr. McElwee can’t quite settle on one specific aspect, but the parts he loves most do have one thing in common: puzzles. “I enjoy lameness diagnosis” he says “It really is like putting a puzzle together. The task is localizing the pain to the proper area. We also have a lot of advanced diagnostic equipment, and that allows us to put together lots of information in order to really figure out what the main issue is.”=
He continues “Also colic surgeries. Those are very intriguing; you never know what you’re going to find. It’s also a lot like putting a puzzle together to find where the blockage is or where the tangled part is or what’s gone wrong and correcting the problem. And as Dr. Brock says ‘Those cases are the most satisfying because those are patients who would have died if they hadn’t met you.’ It’s very gratifying to be healing hands in that situation and able to straighten something out for a patient that otherwise may not have made it.”
In addition to standard equine practice, Brock Veterinary Clinic has also allowed Dr. McElwee to grow into his own passions, specifically equine dentistry. He consulted with another Lamesa veterinarian, Dr. Cleet Griffin, and over time started building his knowledge and the gathering tools available to patients at Brock Veterinary Clinic. “It’s a particular skillset to be able to use your hands in tight dark places and do a lot of things by feel, so for me that’s the challenge and the fun part of dentistry. It’s kind of a really hands on mechanical skill that requires knowledge of the science of tooth function.” He explains. Alfa-Pro is a feed he often prescribes for patients with tooth problems.
Dr. McElwee was first introduced to Alfa-Pro in 2015, when one of his own senior horses became extremely ill, and very thin. After starting Alfa-Pro, Dr. McElwee was impressed by how well the feed got weight back on the horse, and even got him healthy enough to ride again. (This story is highlighted in more detail in another article here.) In addition to prescribing it for dentistry patients, he also suggests it for choke recovery and inflammatory airway problems.
“The quality is consistent, the company stands behind their product, and the horses do well on it.” He says “Aside from helping in recovery from medical issues, it’s also a great way to maintain their Vitamin E levels and to reduce the hassle from varying hay quality throughout the year, and the price is reasonable for the common folks.”
Hi-Pro Feeds is very pleased to have Dr. Dustin McElwee as a part of the Hi-Pro team and look forward to hearing more from him in the future about equine dentistry tips and tricks.
For more information on Alfa-Pro, click here.
For more information on Brock Veterinary Clinic, click here.