What are Contracted Tendons?
Contracted tendons in foals can either be due to something that happened to him in utero or can develop once he is older and growing. This condition leads him to not be able to use his leg properly since he cannot stretch it out completely. This forces him to walk on his hoof abnormally which can lead to all sorts of secondary problems. If it does not get corrected, he will never be able to walk on his leg properly and it will only get worse. Treatment is straightforward and includes incorporating good nutrition, checking for an underlying condition such as osteoarthritis, and treatment for pain as well. Most patients recover well once the underlying condition is resolved in addition to treatment of the contracted tendon.
Contracted tendons in horses is typically seen in foals at birth or as they are growing. If you notice your horse not using his leg or hoof properly, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Contracted Tendons in Horses
Symptoms can vary widely from case to case. Symptoms may include:
- Unable to stand
- Attempting to walk on upper part of fetlocks
- Able to stand but knuckle in the fetlock joint or carpi
- Sores on the feet
Contracted tendons can be congenital or acquired. In congenital conditions, it is possible due to factors such as the foal was malpositioned within the uterus, toxic substances the mare was exposed to while pregnant, or genetic defects. If it is acquired, it is typically a secondary condition as a response to an underlying condition that is causing him pain.
Causes of Contracted Tendons in Horses
Contracted tendons can be congenital or acquired. They can also be due to poor nutrition leading to problems with bone growth. If the condition is acquired, it can be in response to other conditions such as a soft tissue wound, infection, or something more serious such as osteoarthritis. The older the patient is, the more severe it can affect him.
Diagnosis of Contracted Tendons in Horses
It will be apparent to the bare eye there is something going on with your horse’s muscles and tendons. However, the veterinarian will want to do further diagnostics to see exactly which tendons are involved. She will evaluate it by palpating it and moving the different parts of his leg around. She then may want to take radiographs for multiple reasons. The veterinarian will want to see what is affected and will want to check if the bone of the affected leg is experiencing some sort of growth problem or joint disease. In addition to this, she may want to take an ultrasound of the leg. This will allow her to view the different tendons and assess how deep the affected area goes.
In addition to the images, the veterinarian will want to run routine blood work. This will give her information on the internal organs as well the status of your horse’s blood. If certain levels are low or high, it can be indicative of a cause or other issue that is occurring subsequently. She will do a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel to start with. Depending on how the results look, she may want to do more in depth diagnostics.
Treatment of Contracted Tendons in Horses
For affected foals less than one year old, contracted tendons can be treated with nutritional correction, proper hoof trimming, and pain control. It is also common for veterinarians to surgically cut the accessory ligament of the deep digital flexor tendon as it relieves the tension and does not interfere with future performances. For eligible cases, there are many types of splints and casts you can put on foals suffering from contracted tendons.
Pain management is the key to treatment in regards to contracted tendons. Obviously, the contracted tendon is causing strain itself but there is also the possible cause of joint pain or bone disease to consider. The pain medication will help with all of these. However, if you do not have pain medication being administered, your horse may find it too painful to try and walk around which would help him improve sooner.
Recovery of Contracted Tendons in Horses
If you catch the condition of contracted tendons early on and follow the veterinarian’s direction, prognosis of a full recovery is fair to good. If surgery is the course you take, you must still improve his nutritional intake as well as continue to get him regular foot trimmings. All these things can factor into the recovery process.