- Posted by Danny Borders
- On March 20, 2015
- diagnosis, lameness, limbs
Lameness is a term for non-specific aberration in gait and can have a variety of causes. A horse is said to be lame when it’s normal gait is altered by a problem in one or more of the limbs or the spine. Lamenesses are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing the most subtle lameness and 5 representing the most severe. There are specific parameters for each lameness grade.
Borders Equine Clinic knows lameness issues cause pain, worry, and lost time. Our goal is to find the cause of the problem, recommend an appropriate treatment, get your athlete back to competition.
Lameness can be caused by a variety of circumstances including poor conformation, repetitive motion, direct or indirect trauma, fatigue, or inflammation. Lameness can be the result of something as simple as a stone bruise or can be much more complex. Mechanical lameness, a lameness without pain, and can be the result of scarring or connective tissue abnormalities. To determine the best course of action in treating a lameness, a thorough examination is necessary and should be conducted by a qualified veterinarian.
A thorough investigation of a lame horse is necessary in order to ensure a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. The examination begins with a full history. The horse’s type, age, and training regimen may give important clues to the lameness. Your veterinarian will ask how much time has passed since the onset of lameness and how it has been managed. The length of time since the last shoeing will be noted, as well as any indication that the lameness improves with either rest or exercise. The horse’s response to anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medications may provide useful information. Results of laboratory tests may also reveal problems that influence overall performance.
A detailed visual inspection is the start of any examination. Wounds, swellings, conformational concerns and body/muscle condition will all be noted. If the lameness is not severe and/or immediately apparent, examination of the horses gait, at both walk and trot, are next.
Watching the horse move on a circle or while ridden may be requested, to make the lameness more visible. It may also help to flex a limb prior to trotting to help isolate the location of lameness. A hands-on exam of the affected limb, both weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing, is usually next. A close look at the feet are critical, as they are the most common source of lameness. Hoof testers may be used to assess the horse’s response to pressure. The remainder of the limb may also be palpated, noting any heat, swelling or painful reactions to pressure or movement through the range of motion (ROM). In addition to the legs and feet, the back and neck should be thoroughly examined with the horse restrained and standing on a level surface.
At this point in the exam, your veterinarian will hopefully have developed an indication of the origin of your horse’s pain. This is the time to decide whether further diagnostics areneeded. Diagnostic nerve blocks, radiographs and ultrasound exams are common secondary diagnostic tools for most equine veterinarians. Some facilities even offer more advanced diagnostics, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). While not always necessary, these diagnostic tools can mean the difference between an accurate diagnosis/effective treatment and a “best guess”.
After the best available diagnosis is reached, a treatment plan can be made. Treatment plans may be very simple or very complex, and are affected by many factors. Age, expected use, severity of lameness and financial considerations all play a part.
When’s the last time your horse was checked for lameness? Our team is committed to educating our clients in how to keep your animals healthy year round, with good nutrition, exercise and veterinary care. Set up your lameness exam today! Call Borders Equine Clinic at 208-989-0359.
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