Accounts for more lost time and money than any other condition in the equine industry.
A thorough lameness exam is the basis of a lameness diagnosis. It is a highly detailed veterinary exam that may include the following steps:
- History: duration of the issue, current work program, previous lameness issues, and future goals.
- Static exam: evaluation of conformation, hoof tester exam, and palpation of the joints and soft tissue of the limbs.
- Dynamic exam: the horse is watched in motion to determine the lame limb. Often the horse will be watched on hard and soft ground. The degree of lameness is assessed before flexion tests are performed.
- Flexion tests: the limb is held in flexion for a standardized amount of time, the horse trots off, and the lameness is compared to the baseline degree of lameness. This helps isolate the region of pain. As with many parts of the exam, flexion tests are interpreted in consideration of what is normal for that specific horse.
- Diagnostic anesthesia: if the lameness exam has not revealed an obvious source of pain, nerve or joint blocks are often used. This systematically desensitizes portions of the limb. When the lameness improves, the area of pain is identified.
- Diagnostic imaging: once the area of interest is identified, diagnostic imaging can then be used to visualize the structures in the area. Imaging may include radiographs to look at boney health or ultrasonography to assess soft tissue structures. For more complicated lameness cases, referrals will be recommended for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized axial tomography (CAT scan) or nuclear scintigraphy (bone scan).