Veterinarians must be aggressive to detect distal limb lameness in sport horses
In sport horses, the distal limb is vulnerable to potential injury and lameness, as it plays a significant role in adapting to footings and providing shock absorption during locomotion. "Foot balance, both medial-lateral and dorsal-palmar, can have a profound effect on the excursion of joints and the stress on soft tissues of the distal limb," says Richard Mitchell, DVM, owner of Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, Conn. "Footing surfaces that are very hard, excessively soft or unstable can result in aberrant motion and stress that may result in injury."1
Before investing in imaging, Mitchell recommends conducting a thorough clinical examination, which will help determine what type of imaging is necessary. The physical exam includes various manipulative tests, tools (e.g. hoof testers), wedge tests and specific nerve blocks. "These diagnostic techniques are essential," he says. "Taking the time to do a thorough examination will save the practitioner time—and the client money—in the long run."The old methodology of administering nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs to stem the lameness effects before doing the workup is no longer the favored approach, Mitchell says. "It's better to immediately diagnose the lameness when the problem is present, which will possibly avert further lameness from occurring," he says.