Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Eyes Have It

The eye, it is often said, is the window of the horse’s soul. Horse’s eyes, like people’s eyes, are each unique. No two horses have the same patterns in their irises. Even horses that are clones have different patterns because these patterns are created by an interaction of heredity and the environment.

With that in mind, a company called Global Animal Management, which is a subsidiary of Merck Animal Health, has created a new equine identification system called eyeD. EyeD requires a veterinarian to take infrared pictures of a horse’s eye using a special camera. The vet then attaches the camera to a computer with a USB cord, and sends the information to a central computer. 

“In a nutshell, it’s a new, non invasive way to identify horse,” says Davis Knupp, who is the marketing manager for the product. “What we are doing is taking an eyeprint. We can assign a unique identifier to each eyeprint, and we have a database we can store that information in. We also provide a way for veterinarians to have their own local database.”

This kind of identification system has a wide range of possible applications, from recovering of stolen horses to accurately verifying the identify of racehorses – a racehorse of the future might be identified by an eyeprint rather than by a lip tattoo. The product was launched this fall at the American Association of Equine Practitioners annual meeting and is being made available exclusively to veterinarians.

“None of the breed registries have endorsed it yet,” says David. “But it has all been very positive. We sold over 30 systems at AAEP, so we’re working on implementing it with veterinarians and getting it up and running. We’ll also be launching it internationally in Canada, Germany, France and Italy – there is a lot of international interest.”

The first thing that horse owners might see the eyeD system used for is with their next Coggins test.

“We are integrated with a company called Global Vetlink, which provides electronic vet records and electronic Coggins test records. We’re also integrated into some veterinary practice management software. Using the eyed system with these other systems creates efficiency and accuracy in the veterinary clinic.”

When a horse is first enrolled, the vet takes an eye print of both eyes – this way of something happens to one eye, there will still be another one that can be used to identify the horse.

“It’s more accurate than DNA,” says David. “It’s the most accurate way we have to identify a horse.”

Welcome to the future.

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