Q. What’s the best way to treat ringbone?

A. Ringbone is proliferation of bone around the pastern or coffin joint. It has often been classified as articular when the joint is involved, or nonarticular when it is outside the joint. It can, however, have both an articular and nonarticular component.

Ringbone can be a frustrating disease that is progressive, much like knee pain and back pain in people.

I don’t know that there’s an ultimate cure or prevention, if you will. My feeling is if we start treating some of these horses earlier when we have only slight to mild problems, we may be able to slow down the progression. Things like Surpass (a topical anti-inflammatory cream), shock wave therapy, treating the joint if the joint is actually involved—all of those things decrease inflammation and we have to assume will probably decrease the progression of the disease. Nobody has studied that specifically, but those would be the things, short-term, that I would probably do when a horse has a flare-up in that area.

Ultimately, if it’s causing performance-limiting problems and it’s the pastern joint, we can fuse the pastern joint. Once the motion stops, the pain stops, and it’s a relatively high success rate, 60-80% depending on if it’s front or hind leg. Those horses go back to full work. It’s expensive (it usually costs about $5,000 for the surgery) and the layup time is six months to a year, so it’s not a fast procedure. But at least there’s something that we can do.

If it’s ringbone in the coffin joint, there’s not really a whole lot we can do, and that certainly frustrates all of us.

About the Author

David Frisbie, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVS-MR

David D. Frisbie, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVS-MR, is an associate professor of Equine Surgery Colorado State University’s Equine Orthopaedic Research Center and a partner in Equine Sports Medicine, LLC, specializing in orthopedics and sports medicine. Frisbie specializes in orthopedic research, intra-articular therapeutics, new methods of cartilage repair, equine lameness, orthopedic surgery and biologics for the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries, with an emphasis on stem cells.

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