Melissa Aceto

Dr. Melissa Aceto hails from Orillia, Ontario, Canada, where she raised Quarter Horse and Appaloosa performance horses. She completed her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

I wanted to become a veterinarian to help support both my local community and my horse show community abroad. I love working with animals and, of course, their people.

I love riding and showing in reining, western pleasure and western riding. I’ve shown western pleasure and reining horses throughout Canada and the United States since I was a youth exhibitor.  I continue to ride and show with my current show horses; Django, a QH reining gelding, and Codie, a QH pleasure horse. I also have three dogs; Lola, a Boston Terrier, Jada, a German Shepard, and Tina the Pug; plus two cats, Boots and Stevie.

I started my journey with SVEC as an Intern and am now a Sports Medicine Fellow. I work as a general practitioner at SVEC with a dedicated focus on lameness and surgery. From lameness work-ups, diagnoses, assisting in surgeries and helping patients and owners progress through their recoveries, the sports medicine fellow position fosters an advanced understanding of equine lameness physiology and strengthens skills in lameness isolation, imaging and advanced treatment modalities.

I enjoy following a horse’s journey with their owners, whether that be to treat a lameness in a highly competitive performance horse,  to following a mare’s pregnancy to term, or to treating a tricky colic – I am humbled and grateful to be a part of each horse’s support network.

One of the most interesting and rewarding cases I’ve been involved in was, Pepperoni, a beautiful hunter-jumper gelding that was referred to OVC for colic surgery. During the emergency surgery, the surgeon found two lesions that resembled eosinophilic granulomas that were both resected from the small intestine. Due to a poor prognosis, Pepperoni was almost euthanized on the table – but the surgeon and owners remained hopeful.

The following days were challenging for Pepperoni as he continued to struggle with signs of colic. Each day and night, our team continued to monitor Pepperoni and to develop new plans to medically manage his abdominal discomfort and a newly emerged heart murmur – we were all unsure of Pepperoni’s outcome.

After two weeks at the hospital Pepperoni made a miraculous recovery. It was truly wonderful to see Pepperoni walk out of the hospital with his little girl who was excited and grateful to see her strong healthy friend again!

One of the more challenging cases I’ve been involved with was Sage, a 16-year-old Quarter Horse reining mare that had been showing since she was a 3-year-old.  Sage presented with caudal heel pain that was eventually diagnosed – via nerve blocks, radiographs and an MRI – as navicular syndrome with soft tissue damage.  Sage underwent the standard therapeutic treatment for navicular syndrome in hopes to recover from her lameness and to continue competing.

With over a year of treatment, Sage did become more sound and her owner even started to trail ride her again, but whenever Sage was pushed in her training, she’d become unsound.  It became evident that Sage had developed degenerative joint disease in her hocks and the structural integrity of her stifles were also compromised.  It became more evident that Sage would not be returning to the show pen.  Due to Sage’s prognosis, age, and the owner’s limited funds, the owner decided to retire Sage and look for a new show horse.  We were all looking forward to seeing Sage return to the show pen to allow her to continue to enjoy her job, so it was disappointing that we couldn’t achieve that goal for both Sage and her owner.

I am a good listener and offer empathy and support that allows owners to express themselves about their fears, worries or frustrations about their horses’ aliments.

Communication is key to veterinary medicine, and the first step towards a successful diagnosis and treatment, is to hear your patient’s story.

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