Navicular syndrome is a pathology characterized by chronic lameness that affects the forelimbs of horses. Very feared by riders and horse owners, this disease is often linked to a lesion of the podotrochlear apparatus and presents various symptoms. Here's what you need to know about diagnosing navicular syndrome in horses.
NAVICULAR SYNDROME: WHEN TO CALL A QUALIFIED VETERINARIAN?
Also called podotrochlear syndrome, it is a pathology that corresponds to a deterioration of the navicular bone and the structures that surround it (tendon, ligaments, etc.). This syndrome can affect horses of all breeds and ages in particular. Common symptoms relate to intermittent or chronic lameness and posture in horses.
In the chronic phase, the horse concerned makes the effort to alternate the position of the affected limbs to relieve himself when he is at rest. If your horse manifests these different symptoms, it is wise to seek the intervention of a professional.
To diagnose navicular syndrome in horses, the equine veterinarian performs clinical tests depending on the severity of the disease. The clinical examination of this pathology in the horse comprises two phases: the static examination (at rest) and the dynamic examination (in motion). Once the two clinical examinations have been carried out, the veterinarian can confirm the location of the lesion through x-rays and an ultrasound of the affected limbs.
For a complete examination of the area, the practitioner can also perform an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Most consultations take place in the facilities of the equine veterinarian in order to guarantee optimal follow-up. These interventions are generally carried out by professionals in strict compliance with the standards in force and in common agreement with the riders or the owners of horses.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR EQUINE NAVICULAR SYNDROME?
The treatment of podotrochlear syndrome essentially depends on the clinical signs detected in the horse. When the navicular bone is affected, the treatment will aim to relieve pain and prevent the degeneration of the syndrome, which in this case is incurable. Depending on the severity of the syndrome, your veterinarian may suggest drug treatment. Such treatment is characterized by the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, bisphosphonates, corticosteroids, etc.
The veterinarian can however opt for intra-articular ingestions or for regenerative therapies. In order to relieve the tensions that the horse exerts on the podotrochlear apparatus, the fitting of orthopedic shoes is an important step in the treatment of this syndrome. These accessories mainly have the role of supporting the heels and facilitating the movement of the affected limbs.
In addition, a period of rest during the treatment based on anti-inflammatories is necessary. You can exercise the horse as soon as it is shod. In this context, the work must be controlled: a long warm-up time and a soft or homogeneous ground.
If treatment fails, the veterinarian may consider digital neurotomy. This surgical practice represents a last resort because of its disadvantages: loss of feeling in the feet, rupture of the tendon, vascular disorders... This treatment, however, requires regular monitoring of the affected limb.
SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE TO PREVENT NAVICULAR SYNDROME IN HORSES
Horses that work hard on ground that is too hard and too deep are much more susceptible to navicular syndrome. This is the reason why it is recommended to avoid working horses on these types of terrain. Exercise your horse regularly, but moderately. You should also adapt your horse's exercise to its physical condition and age.
In addition to these aspects, it is also essential to provide your horse with a balanced diet of phosphorus and calcium. With such a diet, he will be less prone to navicular syndrome. Do not hesitate to trim your horse's feet regularly to better protect his podotrochlear apparatus.
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