Lameness in horses is a serious and painful problem with several possible causes, and it is important to notice the signs early to improve the chances of successful treatment. Abnormalities in your horse‘s gaits that can be seen with head bobs or heard on hard surfaces as irregular foot falls all are indicative of a problem. Sometimes its a simple as seeing swelling of a limb or a traumatic injury but often lameness is a hidden problem. Upper Valley Equine is prepared to help you sort through this problem with Ultrasound, x-rays, experienced palpation and a critical eye.
Lameness can stem from hoof inflammation, injury or imbalances in hoof angles. Broken bones and injured muscles, tendons or ligaments can cause lameness. If your horse has been injured or has conformation problems and is favoring one side over the other, this can also cause lameness. Overwork and improper conditioning can also cause problems, and there are several types of inflammatory, neurological and infectious diseases that can induce lameness too.
Preventing, Diagnosing and Treating Equine Lameness
Preventing lameness is always preferable to treating it afterward, but this is not always possible. Some preventative measures you can take, however, are making sure not to overwork your horse, ensure he or she has proper training and conditioning for daily tasks, proper farrier work and hoof care, and regular veterinary checkups. Veterinarians teaming up with Farriers to visually asses what is going on inside the hoof compared to what we can visually see on the outside can ensure proper balance and comfort. Sound nutrition, proper rest and hydration are also critical for avoiding lameness due to health problems.
When prevention does not work, however, it is important to notice the signs of lameness promptly and to engage the help of your veterinarian right away. Dr. Clapp's eagle eye will first watch your horse as he or she walks from a distance, and from all sides to evaluate any asymmetries showing the horse overcompensating in one area because of injury to another area. Then, she examines your horse by touch (“palpation”) to evaluate tissue tenderness, texture, heat, inflammation, etc. in the joints, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Dr. Clapp will also bend and flex the legs and check your horse’s hooves carefully. Even sound is important during these evaluations: both Dr. Clapp, you and her handy veterinary technician will actually listen to the sound and rhythm of your horse’s gait for unevenness. Nerve blocks, joint blocks and x-rays can further isolate the area with the problem. After this, we will use a scoring system from 0 (no noticeable problems) to 5 (severe lameness, even during rest) to rank how bad the lameness is.
After isolating the cause of the lameness, we can recommend a course of treatment. Of course, treatments vary widely, ranging from rest, anti-inflammatory medications and gentle therapeutic walking all the way to surgery—it simply depends on the reason behind the horse’s lameness. As equine veterinary science continues to advance, newer treatments are coming out all the time to help even horses with severe lameness. Everything from stem-cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma to laser therapy and alternative treatments such as acupuncture and equine chiropractic care are possible options.
Upper Valley Equines strong networking system allows Dr. Clapp the privilege of speaking to a variety of specialists, sharing imaging with them and coming up with a therapeutic plan for you and your equine. Most of those plans can be done stall side at your home base, however, if further treatment is needed the networking system she has established allows Upper Valley Equine to recommend to you the best options with financial estimates and options pre-discussed as a team prior to making decision.
lameness strikes, act fast with the help of an experienced equine veterinarian