A mix of veterinarians and farriers discussed ringbone-related (a degenerative disease of the pastern and coffin joints) lameness and using MRI to better diagnosis foot lameness at a Table Topic discussion on foot lameness conducted at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md.

The consensus on radiographic changes associated with ringbone was that a consistent pattern between radiographic signs and the degree of lameness involved does not exist. Too often veterinarians diagnose radiographic signs of ringbone as the cause of hoof lameness. Table topic attendees agreed that some horses can have mild to moderate radiographic lesions and not show any lameness while others with more subtle changes can be lame. Participants agreed that intra-articular anesthesia of the joint was the most effective way to determine if a lameness originates from within the joint. A negative response would suggest that the lameness originates elsewhere in the hoof.

Attendees also discussed shoeing horses with ringbone associated with the pastern joint. Farriers recommended not using wedge pads to treat this condition, as they have observed that this technique exacerbates the lameness.

While many of the attending veterinarians live in an area where MRI is not accessible for them or their patients, those that do have access to MRI confirmed that it has changed how they treat lameness. They agreed that it allows them to treat a specific lameness and not overmedicate the affected area in the hope that something will work. Generally, many horses require four to six months rest to treat some MRI-identified hoof lameness. Consequently, veterinarians expressed concern that resting all horses with foot lamenesses without first conducting an MRI examination would falsely restrict those horses with a lameness that a directed treatment might address.

Veterinarians with access to MRI are using it to give their clients a more accurate prognosis on a lameness. With more research being presented on MRI-identified lameness, clinicians are able to use real data and less guesswork. Finally, with the identification of so many soft tissue injuries in the hoof, practitioners are using MRI to determine if a horse is a candidate for a neurectomy (cutting of the nerves). Overall, attendees agreed that MRI is a valuable diagnostic tool that has changed how lameness is treated.

This session was modified by Kent Carter, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, professor of equine lameness and chief of medicine at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Large Animal Hospital, and Mike Pownall, DVM, of McKee-Pownall Equine Services in Ontario.

About the Author

Mike Pownall, DVM

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