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Dan C., DVM
Dan C., DVM, Horse Veterinarian
Category: Horse
Satisfied Customers: 1183
Experience:  Solo Equine Practitioner/Mobile Practice Owner for 16 years.
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My beloved Irish sports horse, Mac is 20 years old. For the

Customer Question

My beloved Irish sports horse, Mac is 20 years old. For the last couple of years he has been receiving bute to help with arthritis and provided I give him a good long warmup he is his normal self. However, he has a bony growth, about nine inches long on his offside hock. It is most evident on the inside of that leg. His offside hoof has dragged a bit for a long time, the farrier has helped with corrective shoeing. But he seems to be periodically lame on his offside hind.He has mostly been out in his field but recently he has had small wounds on the cannon and fetlock areas and stretch marks that have broken the skin under his elbows on his fore legs and, on his hind legs at the high rear of the gaskin (below his bottom).We live on Exmoor and much of the country is very steep and the tracks stoney. I realise writing this how difficult it is describing his condition but much less so for you not knowing or being able to see him!Can you account for the stretch marks and the boney growth and the periodic lameness? is there anything I should do to alleviate the lameness?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Horse
Expert:  Dan C., DVM replied 1 year ago.

Greetings, and thank you for your question.

Sorry to hear about Mac’s ongoing problems. It sounds as if you are doing everything possible to keep him comfortable, so I’ll take this opportunity to thank you from Mac! Also, thanks for your detailed information concerning the different conditions Mac is experiencing.

As far as the bony growth on his hock, without being able to see and feel it (and a radiograph would be great to look at too…!), this is most likely a result of his chronic arthritis, consisting of calcium deposits at a majorly affected area of the arthritis. That would also account for the lameness/hoof dragging that you are seeing with that limb. There is a very distinct possibility that the motion in that hock is compromised, preventing him from flexing/extending that particular joint. The periodic manner in which his lameness appears may also be associated with the bony growth, but there is also the extreme likelihood that there are additional areas of arthritis within that hock, and any type of abnormal movement such as an accidental twist or turn could aggravate the pain associated with the arthritis.

Concerning the scratches and stretch marks: the scratches could very well be related to Mac’s getting up and down throughout the day/evening, especially if there are numerous rocks, etc. as you have described. As far as the stretch marks, I’m having a hard time visualizing exactly what it is that you are describing. Is there any way that you could send a photo of the stretch marks (and the bony growth too, if possible!)? If not, could you provide a bit more detail as to the stretch mark’s nature? If you can answer the following questions, please, this will help me in getting a clearer picture as to what may be occurring.

1): How long have they been present?

2): How long ago did you first notice them?

3): Do they seem to be causing him any type of discomfort due to the broken skin (infection, additional pain, etc)?

4): Does he seem to have extremely dry skin, possibly?

5): Referring to the lameness; does the Bute seem to help him, and how much and how often are you giving it to him?

6): Is Mac on any other additional supplements, such as Glucosamine/Chondroitin, etc.?

Many thanks for your time, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Also, I will be out working for the next few hours, but I will check for your reply as soon as I return.

-Dan C., DVM.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dear *****,Thank you for your swift and comprehensive reply. The stretch marks are mostly healed now so they are a bit of a distraction but may be a sign he has had difficult standing up or has even fallen down in a spread-eagle fashion when he tried to stand. What the stretch marks looked like was that the skin at the top and back of each of his legs had been stretched beyond its natural elasticity and thus split in fine crescent lines, down to the flesh in some parts. I attach a picture of the healing of one of the stretches on his offside foreleg, but it is on the folds of his skin so I can't imagine reveals much too you.As regards Mac's lameness: he has one 1g sachet of Equipalazone morning and evening. He had one sachet in the evenings until about three months ago. I am not certain the additional dose has had noticeable impact. Mac is not on any additional supplements.I attach pictures of the hock. I hope you can see the descriptions.I guess I should come clean as an over-sentimental horse owner: Although Mac has been a safe and loyal partner, I think Mac has come to the end of the road as far as riding is concerned, I cannot afford to keep him as a pet and I am clutching at straws to find and excuse not to do the deed of dispatching him. Mac is so healthy in other ways and it seems like a betrayal as it is just that his legs are giving up on him after a very full and exciting life on Dartmoor and Exmoor.In the last resort it is not whether the growth on his hock will keep making him lame, you said accidental twists could aggravate the arthritis and the pain in any event. What I really need to know whether the growth will make it more likely he will stumble and wipe me out in the process? In short: if he is sound and not lame, is he safe to ride for now?I realise I am putting a totally unreasonable burden on you especially as you can't examine him and I should "man up" but I would appreciate your professional view and experience as to the prognosis and whether there is anything else I can do to ensure he is comfortable and safe.Kind regard,Henry
Expert:  Dan C., DVM replied 1 year ago.

Hi Henry. Thanks for getting back to me, and especially for all of the detailed photos. They are of great help. Thanks for taking the time to send them along.

I can certainly understand your situation with Mac (who, by the way, is an extremely handsome guy, and it is obvious that you have taken excellent care of him). It is a tough decision as to which way to go when it comes to aging horses, quality of life and their overall well-being. I’ve been there several times myself with some of my own horses, so I understand how you’re feeling.

Looking at the photos, it’s apparent that he does have advanced arthritis in the majority of his joints, including the fetlocks, due to the noted swelling and puffiness. As far as the growth on his offside hock, I doubt that it would cause him to stumble, in the respect that it would interfere with his gait and become something he may “trip” over with the opposite limb. That said, however, I would be extremely cautious when riding him, due to the advanced nature of the arthritis, which could cause him to stumble or mis-step at any time. His joint flexion is most likely limited, which can put a hamper on his once solid footing and confidence. So in my opinion only, I would recommend considering not putting yourself at risk, and Mac as well, as a fall could very well injure the both of you. Based on what you have said concerning his overall condition, unfortunately, I would say that it is not worth taking the risk of riding him any further, at this point. Not something that I want to tell you, of course, but there are too many inherent dangers. I so wish I could tell you otherwise……

The folds on the skin are age-related, due to the loss of elasticity that comes with aging. As the cracks seem to be healing, I would recommend to keep doing what you are doing. Any antibiotic cream or even a Vitamin E/Aloe cream would help.

There is not much more to do, unfortunately, as far as managing Mac’s pain from the arthritis. There are long-acting cortisone injections available through your Vet (Methyl-Prednisolone) that I use quite often for pain management in cases similar to Mac. They can often provide up to several months of moderate relief, as they help to inhibit the arthritis-associated inflammation. They can be given in the muscle, just like a vaccine, and are quite safe in situations such as this.

Of course the ultimate decision is yours. When I get to that decision with my own animals, I ask myself the question: “are they still having a good time?”. Also, financial considerations are a factor, and I understand that as well.

I thank you again for taking the time to communicate with me about Mac. It’s a tough spot to be in, but I have confidence that you will make the right choice.

I’ll be thinking of you both.

-Dan C., DVM.

Expert:  Dan C., DVM replied 1 year ago.

Do you have any other questions. Henry?

Thanks again,

-Dan C., DVM.

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