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SyncThermology Blog

Joint Focus - Equine Joint Disease

Monday, September 26, 2016  ‹ Back To Latest News List


This week our blog is written by our Reading based Technician Louise Crow we hope you enjoy......

Veterinary DITI, Assisting Animal Diagnosis, Treatment and Rehabilitation
In this quarter SyncEquine and SyncCanine are focusing on joint related issues. This theme could not be more relevant to my most recent case and so will be the subject of this blog as well as explaining more about my role as a SyncEquine Imaging Technician.
The owner asked me to perform a full body scan on her 12yr, event horse who she bought last winter to compete the following spring. The mare had previously competed to BE 1* but as this is a new partnership they have so far been competing at BE100 this season.
Part of the service that SyncEquine imaging technicians provide to our clients ensures that the screening process is always performed in a professional and methodical manner. The full body scan including the head comprises of recording uniform lateral, caudal and cranial sections of the body, (including 360-degree angles). The horse is scanned following a period of rest (minimum 1hr) and then again after 10 mins of moderate exercise (ideally lunging). This ensures that every report which is produced by our team of vets is as comprehensive and accurate as possible.
We advise that the first appointment be a full body screening especially if it is unclear if the issue is due to pain, behaviour or the horse has a nonspecific and difficult to diagnose lameness. Once a holistic diagnosis has been made we recommend regular region of interest scans to monitor the progress.
So far this year has unfortunately posed some issues for my client, in particular the XC phase due to refusals. Recently the rider had noticed that the saddle was not sitting straight but also that the mare’s hindquarters were not square. The saddle had been checked and the mare receives regular physio treatment from a registered Physiotherapist.
Although there have been no other symptoms or lameness to cause any major concern my client wanted a fully body screening to explore the hindquarters further as well as having a full body health check.

The attached pictures are of the cranial and lateral scans taken of the front legs section (below knees) of my client’s mare which are most significant to this blog.

Summary of SyncThermology’s Vets Report:
• Inflammation within the shoulders which is suspected to be due to saddle fitting (may explain saddle slippage)
• hyperthermia within the left quarters (gluteal) which is suspected to represent muscular tightness through this region.
But what I found most interesting was the vet recommending my client’s vet to flexion test her mare and if positive investigate further:
• further clinical correlation of front fetlock and tarsal joint inflammation is advised. Such thermal patterns can represent degenerative joint disease and this should be investigated if there is clinical concern.

My client subsequently had her mare checked by her vet and the early onset of osteoarthritis was found in the front fetlock joints. The vet then treated the mare with corticosteroid injections.

Impact on Joints
Being the horsey geek I am I do find the anatomy of the horse fascinating and am not surprised to see the issues that commonly effect our performance horses, especially after studying the attached photo sequence by Eadweard Muybridge. The report from SyncThermology’s team of vets reminded me of an article I have read by Dr Robert Bell and Professor Leo Jeffcott, who are based at the Equine Performance and Imaging Centre, University of Sydney Veterinary Teaching Hospital Camden.
The following excerpt is taken from a report on ‘Fetlock Lameness - It’s importance and how MRI can assist in making the difficult diagnosis’ which was first published in 2011. 

'Lameness involving the fetlock joint is an all too common problem in performance horses and racehorses. Injuries to this region may involve the joint itself or the surrounding soft tissues, and are often determined by the use of the horse. The fetlock is a complicated high motion joint that is always subjected to huge forces and stresses during locomotion.'

The classic movie pictures of the American photographer Eadweard Muybridge taken over 120 years ago clearly show the degree of extension of the fetlock during galloping in the horse.

The good news is that many fetlock problems are fairly simple to diagnose. Lameness can be localised to the fetlock by careful clinical examination (i.e. palpation), evaluation of gait (especially under saddle), response to flexion tests and nerve blocks or desensitisation of the joint itself.

I am looking forward to monitoring my client’s horse progress and what will be most interesting to see is whether the mare’s performance during cross country improves. If so there is no doubt in my mind that the problems were caused by the mare experiencing pain in her front fetlocks. A question I also hope to see answered is whether the tightness in the mare’s left hind quarters is secondary to the osteoarthritis? If there is an improvement I am sure the tightness in the left gluteal muscle was due to the mare carrying herself in a way so as not put too much weight on her front legs.

To Conclude:

Since the report I referred to above by Dr Robert Bell and Professor Leo Jeffcott was written in 2011 the case I have shared with you has also demonstrated the importance of Veterinary DITI. Especially in this case as the joint condition was detected before it caused any lameness. My experience of SyncEquine’s scanning process and seeing the SyncThermology vet reports for the horses I have scanned has proved that the technology we use and the way we use it is most definitely an effective and invaluable diagnostic tool. The camera can certainly detect where the cause of the problem lies, identify early what the issue is and then monitor the progress of the horse.

In my future blogs I will share with you the progress of this particular mare as well as continue to share with you my experiences of being an Equine Technician for SyncThermology.
In the meantime please feel free to contact me with any questions or if you are interested in having a free consultation.

Louise Crow
SyncEquine Imaging Technician