A good picture is worth 1000 words. Many equine conditions certainly can be better described through photos than words.
In many cases, you can assist your vet and improve communication by sending them clear photos of what you see. I regularly receive photos from my clients. My inbox is usually full of equine ears, teeth, manure, feeds, insects and parasites, wounds, swollen limbs, skin tumors, and just about anything else you can think of.
I usually find these images to be of great value in my discussion with my client, improving the efficiency of communication.
But, like every form of communication, there are limitations and pitfalls. Certain types of subtle problems are very hard to capture in a photo. Sometimes the photo doesn’t reveal the whole problem, and sometimes I cannot assess the severity of the problem with a photo alone.
Poor quality images, bad lighting, poor resolution, and poor cropping can make the photos very hard to read or put into context. Likewise, very high resolution images may be very memory intense and be hard to send and receive via phone or e-mail.
If you are going to take the time to send your vet a photo of an equine health problem, take and send several good quality images, understanding their value and their limitations.
Use a high quality camera with good resolution. If your phone camera takes poor quality images, use a dedicated digital camera instead. Use a flash, but be careful not to spook the horse.
Move your horse to a setting with good light. Photograph the problem from multiple angles, because it is difficult to assess the shape and depth of a problem from just one perspective.
Take several pictures from multiple distances, zooming in and out. It is hard for a vet to understand the precise location of a problem if images are too close or there is no other anatomic landmark in the image. On the other hand, detail shots are helpful too.
Tips for safety & Success
Talk to your vet about their preference regarding this form of communication. Some encourage it, others do not. Some charge for a consultation, some do not. Talk to your vet about whether to send the image to their phone or e-mail address, and alert them that the images are coming.
Always include basic information including your name, your horse's name, age, sex and breed, as well as a brief description of the problem.
Photos are especially helpful for wounds, swellings, growths etc... Take and send a video if your horse is exhibiting lameness, behavioral issues or anything else that is better demonstrated through moving pictures.
One of the worst things you can do to your vet is send a very memory intense photo or e-mail that clogs their e-mail. Use a file format that keeps the image sizes down to 1-2 megabytes, preferably less than 500k, while still retaining good resolution. Send the images separately or in small groupings, depending on their size.
Add additional information about the problem in the e-mail or text message, and be sure to follow up with a phone call, to confirm receipt.