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Navigating Equine Lameness with a Specialist Near You

Lameness is a condition that can cause pain and discomfort in horses while reducing their mobility. Here, our Ocala equine vets discuss lameness in horses including symptoms and treatment options and talk about the role of an equine specialist during lameness evaluations.


What is lameness in horses?

If your horse is experiencing an abnormal gait or stance, typically accompanied by pain, they may be experiencing lameness. There are several reasons why a horse's gait or stance may change suddenly, such as with many physical or neurological conditions.

Most commonly, the condition or injury affects the musculoskeletal system of the horse. Lameness can affect horses of all sizes, breeds, and ages with varying severity.

What are the signs of lameness in horses?

The common signs that are noted with equine lameness are:

  • Leaning onto the backs of the heels to take the weight off the painful toe area
  • Wider turns and more inaccurate trotting
  • Shifting weight between feet when resting
  • Pain with the use of hoof testers at the point of the frog on the foot
  • Increased digital pulses
  • Inflammation or lesions around the top of the hoof

Significance of Equine Lameness Exams for Horses

Our skilled lameness clinicians use their years of skill and education to localize the source of the lameness in horses in Ocala across the state, and beyond.

There are many stages to a complete lameness evaluation. These include:

  • Detailed history
  • Stance or standing exam
  • Trotting or movement exam
  • Flexion evaluation
  • Hoof testing
  • Nerve and joint block for pain localization
  • Diagnostic imaging

Stress, strain or injury can take a toll on any horse, even one with no obvious conformation fault (a definite twist or deviation of the bones). If you note any of the signs of lameness in your horse, you should contact your veterinarian promptly. A prompt examination can save you time, money and frustration by diagnosing and treating the problem immediately, possibly preventing further damage.

The Role of Equine Lameness Specialists

A lameness clinician or veterinary specialist examines horses with difficult-to-diagnose issues and uses more advanced diagnostics such as nuclear scintigraphy or MRIs. They are often experienced in the use of ultrasound for lameness diagnosis. Many equine specialists who focus on lameness are experienced in treatments such as complicated joint injections, and regenerative therapies such as platelet-rich plasma or stem-cell treatments.

If your horse is experiencing any issues that have been difficult to diagnose or require advanced care your equine vet may refer you to a specialist. He also may refer you for specific diagnostic tests, such as nuclear scintigraphy or MRI, which may not be available in a standard veterinary practice. Many of these specialists offer lameness evaluations along with pre-purchase examinations, which are common for high-level performance horses.

How Finding a Specialist Near You Makes a Difference in Treatment for Lame Horses

Unfortunately, lameness is a common condition among horses. This means that it is highly probable that you will need to bring your horse to an equine vet or specialist at some pointing their life.

In some cases, your veterinary specialist may request that your horse return for additional examinations every 30 to 60 days. This can make it very important to have a specialist who is local to you. This will make the visits much easier to schedule and manage.

What are the treatment options for lameness in horses?

Treating and managing lameness in horses requires a variety of techniques along with a collaborative effort between yourself and veterinary professionals.

Some of the treatment options commonly recommended by equine vets and veterinary specialists include:

  • Steroids for pain management
  • Medication for chronic pain
  • Arthroscopic surgery
  • Stem cell injections
  • Acupuncture and/or acupressure
  • Prolonged rest for healing

The recommended treatment plan will depend on the severity of your horse's condition and any other issues that may affect their needs.

How do lameness experts promote the overall well-being of your horse?

An equine specialist can be an important part of keeping your horse healthy. While your primary equine vet can manage routine exams and preventive care, a specialist will manage any complex care needs for your horse.

Along with lameness evaluations, you may bring your horse to a specialist for surgical procedures, advanced diagnostics, and various therapeutic services and techniques like acupuncture. All of these services work together to promote whole-body wellness and good quality of life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding animals, or professional advice regarding equine regulations. For the diagnosis of your animal's condition and help to navigate regulations governing the care and transportation of equine animals please contact your vet.

Is your horse showing the symptoms of equine lameness? Contact our veterinary team at Florida Equine Veterinary Associates today to schedule a lameness evaluation.

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Florida Equine Veterinary Associates is passionate about the health of sport and performance horses. Get in touch today to book your equine athelete's first appointment.

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