Horse Lameness Services in Orange County

Before Your Appointment

The critical requirement for a lameness exam is a lame horse. While your Equine Veterinary Associates veterinarian can make a presumptive diagnosis of a lameness that we are not able to observe, the highest degree of success in diagnosing a lameness comes when we can actually observe the horse being lame.

For that reasons, if you have to wait several days for a veterinarian appointment, continue to monitor the horse for worsening or improvement of the lameness and do not medicate the horse with any pain medications within 24 hours prior to the examination unless directed to do so by your EVA veterinarian.

If it takes 30 minutes of riding to make the horse show signs of lameness, we encourage you to do that riding before the veterinarian arrives. In contrast, if the horse starts out stiff and then warms up and is sound, don’t exercise the horse prior to the arrival of the veterinarian.

Lameness Exam Procedures

EVA veterinarians use many techniques and procedures to diagnose lameness in horses. The first step is to find out “where” the problem is located. Then, the second step is to determine “what” the cause of the lameness is. And then the final step is to “fix” the problem.

The first step in a lameness exam is to obtain a history regarding how long the horse has been lame, when it appears to be lame, and what treatments have already been tried. After the history has been determined, the foot is often checked with Hoof testers, the leg is palpated, and flexion tests are done.

The horse is then often exercised, and EVA veterinarians attempt to “block out” the lameness using regional diagnostic nerve blocks with local anesthetics. If the region that is causing the pain is blocked with the local anesthesia, the lameness will disappear, and the location of the lameness is evident.

Once the lameness is localized, other techniques, such as radiography or diagnostic ultrasound, are used to further define the lameness. Once the cause of the lameness is defined, treatment can be initiated with confidence.

Lameness Strikes at Any Age

Equine lameness issues can affect any horse at any age. Lameness can range in degree from being very subtle involving only one leg to involving multiple legs and rendering the horse recumbent and unable to stand. Causes of lameness can be obvious and remedied quickly with one examination and treatment, or may be more involved requiring multiple examinations and follow-ups. Occasionally a lameness will become part of the horse's life and something to manage and maintain rather than cure. Early recognition and diagnosis/treatment can play a significant role in the final outcome and success in returning the horse to soundness.

Medical and Surgical Techniques

Equine medical and surgical techniques have made substantial strides in diagnosing and treating equine lameness. However, every lameness case starts with a thorough history and physical examination. Diagnostic nerve blocks can be used to help localize the source of the pain or discomfort and from there diagnostic imaging (radiography, ultrasound, bone scanning, and MRI) can be utilized to pinpoint the problem and help with a practical, effective treatment and long term prognosis.

This is why it is important to have knowledgeable, competent, up to date, and compassionate professionals assist you. All of us at Equine Veterinary Associates, Inc., are very committed to helping you through these times. We have the ability and expertise to understand each horse's unique circumstance and tailor a diagnostic plan to solve the problem and assist you in a treatment to return your horse's soundness as quickly as possible.