Saturday, September 27, 2014

Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Options For Navicular Disease In Horses

By Karina Frost

Many animals such as horses and even people get affected by navicular disease. The syndrome is caused by degeneration and inflammation of bones and tissues in the navicular area. Navicular disease in horses could start mild and if treated well, it goes away in days. It can also be severe and get worse every day if not treated to cause disabling lameness. Major causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for this problem are discussed here.

First, it should be understood that there is no single cause for the condition. There are many causes and some appear singly or in combination. There are also several factors that contribute to or accelerate the occurrence of the disease. Although there are many causes, the major ones are compression of navicular bone and landing with the toes first.

Compression is felt under DDF tendons and behind small pastern bones. Cartilage degeneration occurs due to continued compression. Degenerated cartilage cannot absorb shock from movement because they become flat and less springy. Erosion of cartilage may occur in some cases. Erosion causes exposure of underneath bones after some time causing infection from pathogens or development of other more severe conditions.

Landing with the toes first has also been found to be a cause for navicular condition according to recent research. Toe-first landing results from misaligned lower joints. This places a lot of strain on deep digital flexor tendons. This kind of landing can be a cause as well as a contributing factor for bone modifications or inflammation in the surrounding tendons. Toe-first landing results from many other causes like poor shoeing, long toes, and over-trimming. The occurrence of this condition is contributed by shoeing, conformation, work, and body weight.

Signs for navicular disease are many and they may manifest in different ways. The most common of all signs in pain in the heel. Pain may result from inflammation of ligaments, reduced blood flow, cartilage erosion, or damage of DDF tendon or navicular bursa. Pain is normally indicated by change in gait and frequent stumbling even on a flat surface. Both front feet are affected, but one foot feels more pain than the other one.

Lameness sometimes moves from one foot to another and starts mild or intermittent and progresses to serious or disabling levels. Lameness is measured on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1-2 being mild lameness and 3-5 being extreme. Hard surfaces tend to worsen symptoms hence should be avoided. Leaving this signs unattended to eventually causes change in shape. The most affected foot becomes narrower and more upright.

The treatment option used depends on the level of the problem. If the condition is left to continue for long, it causes permanent changes that cannot be reversed. Therefore treatment should be sort on occurrence of first signs. Exercise, surgery, and medication are some of the treatments available currently.

Exercise involves less intensive work schedule for a given period as progress of the disease is observed. Medications include administration of vasodilators, anticoagulants, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Vasodilators cause dilation in blood vessels in feet hence improving blood flow. Surgery is normally a last resort and is only recommended in extreme conditions.

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