Identifying Primary, Secondary Pain Sources in Horses
Fairfield, CA (May 23, 2018) Pain is just a single word but to your horse, it can represent a myriad of both obvious and confounding expressions of lameness. Which is why Equitopia has released Diagnosing Subtle Lameness, Part 2 in its four-part Equestrian Evolution video series, Recognizing Subtle Lameness. Led by world-renowned equine orthopaedics expert, Dr. Sue Dyson, Head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Centre for Equine Studies at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, UK, it outlines a protocol for establishing the main and/or multiple sources of underlying pain associated with subtle and obvious lameness in horses.
“It is important to do a whole horse examination in order to have a comprehensive diagnosis that allows for proper planning of treatment and rehabilitation,” says Equitopia founder, Caroline Hergarty. Diagnosing Subtle Lameness gives owners and equine caretakers the tools for understanding how and why detailed examinations of physical and behavioral issues are integral to successful diagnosis.
“A horse should feel ‘easy’ underneath you,” Dr. Dyson says at the start of the 17-minute video. “If your horse doesn’t feel that way then you need to listen, because they are trying to tell you something.”
Among the diagnostic points covered are the necessity for a ‘whole horse’ evaluation that includes assessing range of motion in hand and under saddle on hard and soft surfaces, palpation of tendons and soft tissue, muscular symmetry (atrophy vs. development), flexion tests, way of going through the gaits on straight lines and circles, on contact and a long rein, and overall fit of the girth and saddle.
Dr. Dyson cites lameness evaluation under saddle as essential: “Veterinarians miss a great deal when they can’t see a horse ridden. The assumption that increased lameness under saddle is always related to back pain is a misconception.” Lameness can be accentuated and influenced by rider skill: “If a rider is out of balance it can confound the interpretation of lameness.”
Diagnosing Subtle Lameness also looks at grading along a pain scale, and pinpointing pain sources through a process of elimination that incorporates the judicious use of nerve blocks, phenylbutazone (‘bute’) trials, X-rays, and ultrasound or medical imagining, because neural pathways change with pain.
If nerve blocks don’t suspend the pain, Dr. Dyson advises, back pain can’t be ruled out but may point to other sources, like hoof abscesses or hairline fractures. Conversely, sacroiliac pain will not respond to bute, and joint swelling must be carefully assessed because nerve blocks used near cellulitis can risk spreading infection.
Diagnosing Subtle Lameness is the second smart, succinct installment in the free four-part series, Recognizing Subtle Lameness, produced by the California-based equine education center and Padma Video, and featuring some of the most renowned experts in equine biomechanics in the world today. Look for Part 3, Recognizing Horse Facial Expressions of Pain, coming soon.
In comparison to the high price of pain, Equitopia is offering the Recognizing Subtle Signs of Lameness series free on YouTube, in accord with its mission to develop a set of guiding principles, rooted in research and evidence that empower owners and trainers to meet their goals without compromising the health and welfare of their equine partners. For just $4.95 a month, join Equitopia and enjoy benefits including a monthly newsletter, educational videos including its equine biomechanics series, discounts on live events and online courses, and a personalized live consult/lesson with one of its internationally renowned team of experts. To register, go to www.equitopiacenter.com.