Lameness in horses is common complaint

R. Dean Meyer DVM
Lodi Veterinary Care
Katelia, a 16-year-old "Pintabian"
(1/2 Arabian 1/2 Pinto), romps in a pasture near Germantown last summer.

Lodi - Lameness is one of the most common veterinary complaints in horses. There are many reasons and causes for horses to go lame, but I wanted to quickly touch on some of the more common things I see in our veterinary practice.

It is important to have your veterinarian examine your horse for lameness as soon as you see a problem, since some lameness conditions if left untreated can cause life-long or even career ending problems.

One of the most common causes of lameness is laminitis. With the abundant rainfall we have had this growing season, it has led to lush green pastures that normally would be getting pretty brown by this point in the summer. These lush pastures have definitely caused a prevalence in laminitis horses.

This is one condition you want to have your veterinarian and farrier involved with right away to help prevent long term issues. Lateral radiographs are very important to determine whether any rotation in the coffin bone has occurred. The use of grazing muzzles and dry-lots will often prevent re-occurrence in many mild and early onset cases.

Another common cause of lameness in horses is due to confirmation problems. Many of these confirmation faults can cause rear limb lameness. I often see horses with sore hocks and stifles that will then cause sore backs. Joint injections will help with pain. The use of neutraceuticals, such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin has also shown benefit.

Working closely with your farrier will ensure angles are kept at a proper degree for comfort and support. In addition, special corrective shoeing may also help these horses.

Lastly a common lameness problem is degenerative joint disease, or in other words osteoarthritis. This can occur in both old and young horses, since it can be caused by several things. Over the last few years there have been some outstanding anti-inflammatory medications approved for this condition. Primarily Equioxx (firocoxib, this medication controls joint pain and inflammation.

Unless the horse is in extreme pain, exercise is also very beneficial in horses with osteoarthritis. This helps keep muscles from getting atrophy, which can make the arthritis more painful. Many times keeping them in year round work is better than giving them the winters off.

Oral neutraceuticals will also help many of these horses.

In all of the above conditions it is also very important to balance the diet in these animals. Many vitamins and minerals help influence lameness in horses, but they must be fed at balanced levels and be from a good quality source.

As we approach the end of the the show season for many, it is a good time to access any management and feed changes you may need to make. Contact your veterinarian or feed specialist for any assistance with these changes