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Lameness in Horses, Lame Horse Veterinary Advice


 

LAMENESS
IN HORSES

Where
Damage Occurs & How to Fix it
by Vet Stephen
Ashdown

 

 diagram of common types of arthritis and joint problems in horses

 


INTRODUCTION

What
follows is a brief introduction to horse lameness, a complicated subject.
Please send an email to info@globalherbs.co.uk
headed ‘Lameness’ with your full name and postal address and we’ll
send you an 8-page FREE leaflet entitled ‘Lameness Made Easy’. 

This is
a simplified approach, doesn’t aim to cover all aspects of the subject,
but will get you started with a positive approach to helping a lame horse.


WHAT
IS LAMENESS?

Lameness
occurs when a horse develops a limp – detected by nodding of the head when
trotting. 

WHAT
CAUSES LAMENESS?

Bruising
or inflammation in (a) joints (b) muscles, (c) tendons/ligaments (d) feet
– around the sole and laminae and (e) skin.


FIRST
INSPECTION

Look
at the diagram above and you’ll find the location of the likely problem
area. Before your vet arrives get a friend to lead your horse around,
walking and trotting, and see what it looks like at a distance. It’s a
good idea to do this with a normal horse first so as to make a comparison.
At a trot a horse’s head will drop i.e. nod when it puts weight on a
hind foot that is lame. If a horse is lame in the front leg it will nod
its head when it puts its weight on the leg that is sound. A general
appreciation of which area of the body is affected will help you get a
closer look at a suspicious spot and maybe see if there is a sign of
damage that may need quick action.


FIRST
AID

If
you believe you’ve found the troublesome spot and there is a swelling
use a cold hose to calm it down; if there is a cut, clean it and use a
wound spray. Take great care if you discover a painful spot and wait for
your vet. Likewise, if your horse is generally uncomfortable when an
affected joint is flexed, get advice.


JOINTS

Joint
damage causes arthritis or joint inflammation, and the pain makes the
horse lame. Bad arthritis is referred to as DJD or Degenerative Joint
Disease. 

Arthritis
in the older horse is often blamed on normal wear and tear; but the
horse’s self-repair mechanism should enable it to recover of its own
accord provided it is able to access the right diet and absorb the
necessary nutrients.

However,
older horses may not absorb nutrients as well as younger ones and the
recommended RDA’s – recommended daily allowances in supplements –
may be insufficient.

Many
people also fail to appreciate that most pasture in the UK is
nutritionally deficient. Add this to the fact that every horse’s dietary
requirements is different whether young or old and you have an inherent
problem of potential ill health caused by ‘nutritional imbalance’
which can’t be ignored.

The
principal problems or affected parts include:

  1. The
    Navicular Bone in the foot – bone may be wearing away or the
    surrounding ligaments strained. 
     
  2. General
    DJD or Arthritis in the fetlock, coffin and hock.
     
  3. Ringbone
    – extra bone growth around edges of joints.
     
  4. Sidebone
    – cartilage in the side of the foot becomes harder bone.
     
  5. Stifle
    or Knee Cap
    – tends to get stuck.
     
  6. Back
    Problems
    – include Kissing Spines in which the bones of the back
    rub together where they shouldn’t; and sacroiliac joints where the
    hip joins the spine just behind the saddle.
     
  7. Clicking
    and Noisy Joints
    – parts rub together without sufficient
    lubrication.
     
  8. Splints
    – small bone slithers that sit on the inside and outside of each leg
    at the top of the canon bone and which are attached to the leg by
    ligaments. These ligaments may become damaged as the result of a kick
    or a fall and aggravated or swollen.
     
  9. Windgalls
    – excess joint fluid indicates a potential joint problem even if the
    horse isn’t showing any lameness.
     
  10. OCD
    – mainly stifle and shoulder. Cartilage inside a joint
    becomes damaged.
     
  11. Spavin
    (bone spavin) – hocks. Very difficult to treat.


MUSCLES

When
a horse gets a kick or has a fall muscles are bruised and the pain will
cause lameness.

The
body’s self-healing mechanism gets busy and generally in a few days the
damage is repaired.

However,
if lameness continues for some time other muscles are affected which are
close to those muscles which have been damaged. These muscles shrink from
lack of use and can add to the lameness problem.

Back
Problems are mostly caused by muscle damage, often as a result of a poorly
fitting saddle.


TENDONS
& LIGAMENTS

Tendons
attach muscles to the horse’s skeleton. When damaged they can cause
serious lameness in your horse.


FEET
& LAMINAE


  1. Bruising

  2. Abscesses

  3. Laminae
    – Please refer to our FREE leaflet entitled ‘Laminitis Made
    Easy’ and visit our associate website www.laminitis-advice.co.uk 


SKIN

Mud
Fever, caused by specific bacteria, may cause lameness. For more guidance
please read these pages – Skin
Problems
, Mud
Fever
.


FIXING
THE PROBLEM

Consult
your vet.
He will probably prescribe pain killers such as
‘Bute’ and anti-inflammatories. Most drugs, however, have unwelcome
side effects if used for two long and may damage the bowel lining, liver
and stop the body’s healing mechanism from working well enough; and side
effects may not be very easy to spot at first. Although soothing
alternatives based on devils claw may help limit the use of drugs they do
raise stomach acid levels somewhat and take a long time to produce
results. There are, however, many other quick and effective solutions.

To
continue your examination of this complicated subject please send for the FREE
leaflet entitled LAMENESS MADE EASY and revue our vets comments on
the website www.freevetadvice.co.uk
.

lameness made easy brochure


Other horse related pages on Hints
and Things

Horse
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Mud
Fever

Skin
condition in Horses

Herbs
for Horses

Herbal
World of the Horse

Moody Mares

Horse
Breed/Horse Mating

Stress
in Horses

Horse Flies and
Biting Insects

Management and
Prevention of Sweet Itch