Equine Arthritis Plagues Majority Of Lame Horses

It’s been estimated that nearly 60 percent of all equine lameness is due to joint disease and arthritis. Some horses with arthritis may not show signs of being lame, so it’s important to try to prevent and diagnose the disease early to manage its progression.

Horses can develop arthritis for a variety of reasons, including normal wear-and-tear from repetitive force on a joint, poor conformation or physical injury. Joints that bear the brunt of a horse’s weight are the most prone to developing arthritis.

There are some ways to spot arthritis early: Looking for pain, heat, swelling or loss of range of motion could indicate that something is amiss. If any of these is apparent, it’s worthwhile to have a veterinarian look at the horse.

The vet will most likely perform a number of tests to determine exactly what ails the horse, including flexion tests and X-rays. An X-ray is the most common tool used to diagnose joint disease; it can show a veterinarian if there are any bone chips or if the space between bones is narrowing, which happens in later stages of joint disease.

If the X-ray doesn’t reveal enough information to the vet, he or she may recommend that the horse have a CT scan, which takes multiple X-rays at different angles while the horse is anesthetized. This gives the vet detailed images of the shape and structure of bone, as well as information on bone density.

More-advanced imaging options include nuclear scintigraphy (also called a bone scan). This scan can detect joint inflammation by recognizing blood vessel dilation using radioactive dye that concentrates around inflammation. Arthroscopy is more invasive and involves inserting a tiny camera into the joint, which shows the vet any defects in the joint cartilage.

An additional technique that can help identify joint disease uses serum biomarkers in a horse’s blood, which are especially helpful in early diagnosis of joint disease. Biomarkers in the synovial fluid and blood serum can detect changes within a joint.

The goal of any arthritis treatment is to reduce inflammation in the joint to minimize joint damage. Pain relief is also key. Options to manage both include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and intra-articular joint injections.

Read more at HorseJournals.

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