New Bolton Center Welcomes Board-Certified Neurologist
Amy Johnson, DVM joins team as assistant professor of large animal internal medicine and neurology
There are only three veterinarians in the world who are board-certified in both large animal medicine and neurology. Amy Johnson, DVM is one, and was recently appointed to the faculty of New Bolton Center as assistant professor in large animal internal medicine and neurology.
As a neurologist, Dr. Johnson focuses on diseases affecting the nervous system such as wobbler syndrome, equine herpes, West Nile virus, rabies, botulism, equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) and other neurologic diseases to which horses as well as camelids and food animals are susceptible.
“Neurology,” said Dr. Johnson, “is a fascinating and often misunderstood discipline that intrigues me. Horses, in particular, may develop a wide variety of neurologic diseases, and their welfare as well as the safety of their handlers and riders often depends on accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.”
A horse that has seizures or severe incoordination, for example, can pose a real life-threatening danger for a rider or handler.
Dr. Johnson's particular interests include improving the ability to diagnose the neurologic diseases to which horses are susceptible so that more effective treatment can be instituted. EPM, one of the most dreaded equine neurologic diseases, is also one of the most common types of case she sees. Accurate EPM diagnosis is an active area of research for Dr. Johnson, and she continues to fine-tune treatment and rehabilitation protocols with the hopes of improving recovery rate.
Botulism diagnosis is another active area of research for Dr. Johnson.
"New Bolton Center admits and treats more horses with botulism than almost any other clinic in the country due to the organism's presence in the soil of this region," explained Dr. Johnson.
Botulism, a devastating disease in horses usually caused by ingestion of botulinum toxin, can make horses unable to eat, drink, walk and stand. When untreated, it frequently causes death due to respiratory paralysis, but prompt treatment and excellent supportive care, such as that available at New Bolton Center, often leads to complete recovery.
"Adult horses with botulism can be some of the hardest yet most inspiring cases,” said Dr. Johnson. “Treatment may take weeks of intensive care and involve significant personnel. For example, it can take four to six people to successfully roll or sling a horse that cannot stand. But it is so rewarding when the horse again regains the ability to stand on its own and eat."
Dr. Johnson has been a clinician and lecturer at New Bolton Center since 2007. It was during this time that she also completed a non-traditional residency program in neurology.
Says Dr. Johnson, who volunteered at New Bolton Center as a high school student, “Penn Vet was a perfect fit for me as they have a well established small animal neurology program that provided me with specialized training and support, and New Bolton Center has a tremendous caseload as well as exceptional resources in terms of both equipment and personnel.”
Dr. Johnson received her veterinary degree from Cornell University, where she also completed a large animal internal medicine residency.
According to Ray Sweeney, VMD, chief of the section of medicine at New Bolton Center, Dr. Johnson’s unique expertise in both large animal internal medicine and neurology makes her a tremendous resource for Penn Vet patients, clients, students, and referring veterinarians.
“In addition to her talent with equine patients,” said Dr. Sweeney, “Dr. Johnson is skilled in the management of camelids, cattle and small ruminants.”
Gary Althouse, DVM, PhD and chair of clinical studies at New Bolton Center, characterizes Dr. Johnson as a seasoned academic clinician and teacher.
“As both an internist and neurologist, her expertise will be unparalleled nationally, and will be a unique asset at NBC,” said Dr. Althouse.