One of the most common problems a horse may face is lameness! As a significant portion of our practice deals with the athletic horse, lameness evaluation and diagnosis is one of our main interests. We will come to your house or stable and listen to you in order to gain your horse’s history. Lameness examinations include watching your horse from a distance. We stand back and evaluate conformation and watch your horse move on a longe line and/or under saddle. Hands-on evaluation is in-depth; palpation, flexion, hoof tester exam, soft tissue palpation, and timed flexion tests are all a part of a lameness exam. Often, pin-pointing the source of pain is a challenge. We may utilize diagnostic nerve blocks and other tests that help identify where your horse is hurting. Once the source of lameness is identified, imaging takes place to look “inside” your horse’s legs to help reach a diagnosis.

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Medical imaging employs the use of stall-side equipment such as digital radiography and ultrasound. In performing diagnostic imaging, our veterinarians can provide a safe, accurate diagnosis and promptly treat the problem. However, some patients are referred to area hospitals for further lameness evaluation and diagnostic imaging. Other imaging modalities include MRI, CT, and nuclear scintigraphy (bone scans).

Types of diagnostic imaging

Digital Radiographs – Radiographs, or x-rays, are usually the first test administered to evaluate your horse. Our veterinarians utilize digital x-rays because they are accurate, convenient, and display high quality bone images. Digital radiographs also project less radiation than traditional film radiographs, which allow you and your horse to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.

Ultrasound – Ultrasounds are another form of imaging that looks primarily at soft tissue. This diagnostic modality is perfect for lameness issues that involve soft tissue damage. Bone edges and joint cartilage can also be assessed by ultrasound.

What does diagnostic imaging involve?

The process for obtaining images of your horses depends on what type of diagnostic modality is being used and the size of your horse.

Horses with a disease or condition often feel increased anxiety and stress. Perhaps the horse is naturally fidgety or edgy. For any of these reasons, horses can be uncooperative during digital imaging procedures. In these situations, our staff patiently tries to make your horse feel comfortable and guide them to cooperate. If a horse is aggressive or remains unwilling, the veterinarian may opt to sedate your horse while performing diagnostic imaging. Also, for tests that require a horse to be absolutely still, sedation is typically administered.

Treatment Plans

Treatment plans are determined once the diagnosis is made. We offer a wide range of treatment options. We may advise only rest, such as in hoof abscess. Often, we offer a rehabilitation schedule for your horse in the event of soft-tissue injuries or laminitis. Other lameness conditions require further intervention in the form of injections utilizing IRAP, PRP, sodium hyaluronate, corticosteroids, or stem cells.

If you have any questions about lameness evaluation or imaging services, please call our office.