A vet with a ‘sixth sense’


The following article was recently published about BCBA member Steve Adair by the University of Tennessee.

Horse lovers from across the Southeast travel hours upon hours to bring their beloved four-legged family members to see Steve Adair.

An associate professor of equine surgery in the College of Veterinary Medicine and a veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist, Adair is known for paying special attention to his patients during their treatment and rehabilitation.

“Dr. Adair has unbridled passion for all horses, but a special place in his heart for equine athletes,” said Jim Thompson, dean of the college.

Adair said when it comes to diagnosing medical problems, there’s a key difference between animal patients and human patients.

“Animals have a different way of communicating their pain with us,” he said. “There’s a process of examination, but also a look in the (animal’s) eye. Over time you develop a sixth sense.

“I enjoy that challenge, and the challenge of teaching students to look for those cues.”

After earning his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Auburn University in 1984, Adair went into private practice in Louisiana, spending much of his time around racehorses. He became interested in horses’ rehabilitation and was accepted to a surgical residency at UT in 1986. He joined UT’s faculty in 1990. His research focuses on laminitis, a foot disease common in horses. He was a charter member of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Adair primarily treats racehorses and other equine athletes, but one of his better-known cases was that of Pattycake, a five-year-old saddle horse burned in a barn fire. Pattycake had the worst burns Adair had seen in his twenty-five year career. Through five months of treatment at the College of Veterinary Medicine, under the care of Adair, three additional doctors, and eight students, Pattycake mended enough to move to a rehab center closer to her home in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Apart from his UT work, Adair serves as rehabilitation specialist for the Budweiser Clydesdales.

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