EQUUS - - Eq In Brief -

The term “de­vel­op­men­tal orthopedic dis­ease” (DOD) ap­plies to a col­lec­tion of bone and joint ab­nor­mal­i­ties that arise when the con­ver­sion of car­ti­lage to bone is dis­rupted in a young, grow­ing foal. Os­teo­chon­dri­tis dis­se­cans (OCD), for in­stance, oc­curs when car­ti­lage is too thick to be suf­fi­ciently per­me­ated by blood ves­sels and the bone be­neath it de­vel­ops weak, empty spots re­ferred to as “le­sions.” In epi­physi­tis, ar­eas of grow­ing car­ti­lage at the end of bones can­not sup­port the young­ster’s weight, lead­ing to in­flam­ma­tion in ar­eas un­der stress.

Par­tic­u­lar breeds and blood­lines are ge­net­i­cally prone to DOD, but a high­pro­tein diet greatly in­creases any young­ster’s risk, as does lack of turnout and/or forced ex­er­cise, such as ex­ces­sive longe­ing or pony­ing. DOD is man­aged with di­etary changes and, in ad­vanced cases, surgery to re­move dam­aged car­ti­lage and bone.

With early in­ter­ven­tion and care, many foals with DOD can grow up to be sound, use­ful horses, but some stud­ies sug­gest that the dam­age done to an im­ma­ture joint, par­tic­u­larly scor­ing by small os­teo­chon­dral frag­ments, can lead to arthri­tis later in life.

Mak­ing sure a young foal has a proper diet and a sen­si­ble ac­tiv­ity level not only will help pre­vent DOD in the short term but can pay off in sound­ness years down the road. If your horse is now grown, but you know he had DOD as a young­ster, keep an eye out for early signs of arthri­tis so you can be­gin in­ter­ven­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.

Torque (twist­ing force) is par­tic­u­larly tough on joints, so limit the amount of work done in small cir­cles or with tight turns. Sud­den, mas­sive in­flam­ma­tion in the wake of a se­vere in­jury can lead to the de­struc­tion of car­ti­lage, and it sets the stage...

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