Horse Lameness Investigations

What is Horse Lameness?

Lameness is a common problem in equine veterinary care. It refers to the unusual stance of a horse that is caused by an issue with the horses locomotor system. This is usually due to pain but can also be a neurological issue or wider faults in the mechanical makeup of the horse.

Horse Lameness Investigations

A Lame horse will usually show signs of the condition such as a limp and obvious bobbing of the head. This is a common veterinary problem in sport horses, racehorses and leisure horses, but this does not make it any less emotional. Quick diagnosis is vital.

South Moor Equine Vets are able to diagnose and treat obvious causes of horse lameness such as foot abscesses and tendon injuries as well as perform thorough investigations and treatments where necessary.

Whether you’re noticing lameness in horses front legs or lameness in horses hind legs, we’re here to help.

Lameness in horses front legs may be an indication of Sidebone, which is the ossification of the collateral cartilages in the foot.

What may a horse lameness work up include?

  • Taking a thorough history of the horse
  • Testing for pain in the horses hoof
  • Careful examination of your horses conformation
  • Palpation of your horses limbs and back
  • Active lameness assessment at walk, trot on different surfaces, lunging, and flexion tests or even being ridden
  • Relevant diagnostic imaging including x-ray or ultrasound
  • Nerve or Joint blocks (injections)
  • Referral for specialist diagnostic imaging such as an MRI scan or scintigraphy

If it is unclear what the cause of horse lameness is, one or a series of nerve blocks may be performed:

  • A small volume of local anaesthetic is injected, over specific nerves in the leg to numb the feeling to a specific area of the horse.
  • If your horse/pony is sound after this nerve block then we know that the cause of lameness is coming from somewhere within the ‘blocked’ region.
  • If your horse/pony remains lame then we will perform the next nerve block up the leg, as we would usually start at the bottom of the leg and work our way up.

What happens after a lameness work-up?

We would always discuss the outcome of a lameness work-up with you before undergoing any treatment. The type of treatment is very dependent on the diagnosis but may include:

  • Medication of a structure with an anti-inflammatory drug
    • E.g. placing steroid into a joint
  • Rest +/- controlled exercise
  • Changes to the way your horse is shod.
  • Systemic treatment with an anti-inflammatory (e.g. ‘bute’)
  • Surgery to treat specific conditions and/or to provide us with more diagnostic information

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