CSU’s Equine Orthopaedic Laboratory Seeks More Horses with Navicular Disease

Researchers at Colorado State University's (CSU) Equine Orthopaedic Laboratory are once again seeking to recruit horses suffering with navicular disease to participate in the next phase of a new shoe study.

The first study, which began last August, exhibited solid success in diminishing the lameness caused by imbalances in hoof conformation. The research team would like to see the same success with the next trial so they can offer some definitive measures to help horses suffering with navicular disease.

The clinical trial, which will continue for the next year, involves comparing the effects of three different shoe types on horses diagnosed with clinical navicular disease, a degenerative condition of the navicular bone or soft tissues of the navicular area.

Potential participants are encouraged to make an appointment for a preliminary examination with the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) by calling Jeffery Alldredge, DVM at 970/491-4413. Horses will be evaluated by VTH equine veterinarians for lameness and those identified as potential candidates will be given the opportunity to participate in the study.

"Horses whose owners choose to participate in the study will first have their old shoes removed, radiographs done and video footage shot of the horse's trot across a pressure sensitive mat," said David Frisbie, DVM, PhD, MS, Dipl. ACVS, manager of the Equine Othopaedic Laboratory and project leader. "The mat evaluates the ground reaction force as the horse walks or trots. From this we can determine a number of problems."

After radiographs have been taken, and the horse has received a thorough trim, a shoe type will randomly be assigned and applied.  The horse will then be discharged and sent home with a standard protocol of exercise and therapy to be followed.

The horses will again be reevaluated, retrimmed and reshod four weeks after the initial evaluation, again at 10 weeks, and a final examination will be given at 16 weeks. After the final examination, the horse will be dismissed from the study and owners will be given their choice of shoe to be applied at that time, at no charge.

"This is good for the owners and their horses who are suffering with this disease. For only the initial examination fee, the horse will receive four thorough exams, trims and re-shoeing over the next 16 weeks, at no cost to the owner, as long as they complete the study,” Frisbie said.

The study involves three different types of shoe: the traditional Egg Bar shoe, the New Balance shoe and a yet-to-be released design by Dynamix, a Swiss manufactured shoe.

Navicular disease strikes horses of all ages. The possible causes are under debate, but among the factors proposed are poor conformation, trauma, and poor blood supply. The condition is usually in the forefeet and tends to affect both sides, although one side may be worse than the other. Typical signs are chronic lameness with shortening of the stride, possibly with stumbling, wearing and pointing of the toe. For more on navicular disease, visit http://www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=49.

Diagnosis involves visual examination, response to hoof testers and a palmar digital nerve block and radiography. Regimes for treatment usually involve rest and anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone early in the condition, corrective shoeing and, sometimes, nerving as a last resort.

The Equine Orthopaedic Research program started as a multidisciplinary program addressing the critical questions in equine musculoskeletal disease. Since 1984, considerable research has been done to identify and define a number of new conditions, test new medications and look for new ways to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal problems in the horse.  The goal of the Equine Orthopaedic Research team is to find new methods to prevent the occurrence of joint disease and musculoskeletal injuries and new ways to rehabilitate joints already damaged.  In using the horse as a model, the Equine Orthopaedic Research team believes they can also initiate efforts to resolve problems in human conditions where they are comparable to those in the horse.

For information about the CSU Equine Orthopaedic Research Laboratory and the various projects in which they are engaged, visit http://www.colostate.edu/depts/equine/graduate/orthopedics/Default.htm.

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