Developmental Orthopedic Disease Average Cost

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What is Developmental Orthopedic Disease?

Developmental orthopedic disease was previously referred to as metabolic bone disease.  DOD encompasses all bone and joint disease diagnosed in foals and young horses.  The joint is where bones connect to provide motion and flexibility to the body. Developmental orthopedic diseases may include:

  • Osteochondrosis
  • Osteochondritis dissecans 
  • Angular limb deformities
  • Physitis 
  • Subchondral bone cysts
  • Contracted flexor tendons
  • Cervical vertebra malformation 
  • Osteoarthritis

The most common developmental orthopedic diseases in foals and young horses are osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans. If you believe that your horse is suffering from a developmental orthopedic disease, take him to be seen by a veterinarian.  Early diagnoses and treatment of DOD can provide a good prognosis for the horse.

Developmental orthopedic disease (DOD) refers to a variety of disorders involving bone malformation in foals and young horses. Developmental orthopedic disease is a consequence of cartilage failing to develop correctly into bone.

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Symptoms of Developmental Orthopedic Disease in Horses

Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Lameness
  • Inflammation of the joints
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Foals laying down often

Causes of Developmental Orthopedic Disease in Horses

Causes of developmental orthopedic diseases may be a combination of the following reasons:

  • Genetics – Some breeds have more predisposition to DOD
  • Nutrition - Lack of good nutrition of a pregnant or lactating mare. 
  • Diet of the foal – Growing horses need a nutritious diet
  • Trauma or stress such as premature saddle training
  • Rapid growth
  • Inadequate amount of minerals (copper, zinc)
  • Lack of vitamin K1 (essential for strong healthy bones)
  • Overweight
  • Excessive or lack of exercise

Diagnosis of Developmental Orthopedic Disease in Horses

The veterinarian will go over the medical history of the horse.  He will need to know what symptoms you a have observed and when they started.  The veterinarian may want to see the house walk so he can evaluate first hand if there is lameness.  Your horse’s diet will need to be discussed. The physical exam may include:

  • Listening to the heart and lungs
  • Blood pressure
  • Hoof testing
  • Checking the color of the gums
  • Palpation of the limbs and muscles
  • Palpation of lymph nodes

Diagnostic tests may include a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam, and a serum chemistry panel.  These tests will help evaluate the overall health of the horse. If the veterinarian suspects a developmental orthopedic disorder, he will suggest x-rays to be taken of your horse.

Treatment of Developmental Orthopedic Disease in Horses

The treatment for developmental orthopedic disease will depend on the veterinarian diagnoses.


Arthroscopy surgery will be needed to remove the abnormal bone and cartilage. Anti-inflammatory and medications will be prescribed. 

Osteochondritis Dissecans

The horse may need arthroscopic surgery Restricted exercise and a reduction of diet may be recommended to help slow down the growth rate. Injections of corticosteroids may help the joint inflammation and mineral supplements may be suggested

Angular Limb Deformities (ALD)

Splinting and casting the inflicted legs may help mild deformities Limited exercise will be necessary. In more severe cases of angular limb deformation surgery will be needed


A bacterial infection is usually the cause of physitis. Your horse will be prescribed antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and pain medication, and restricted exercise will be required to help with the inflammation.

Subchondral Bone Cyst

Treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and rest may improve the condition. Restriction of exercise will be needed. Surgery may also be recommended. Any deficiency in the horse’s diet must be improved. 

Contracted Flexor Tendons

Usually foals that are less than one year can be treated for contracted flexor tendons with proper nutrition, hoof trimming, pain medications, and splints or casts.  In severe cases, surgery may be recommended. 

Cervical Vertebra Malformation

Cervical vertebra malformation is usually treated with correcting the deficiencies in the horse’s diet and by performing surgery.  There is a treatment plan that uses a titanium basket to fuse the vertebrae.  This procedure helps the spinal cord not to be compressed.

Osteoarthritis in Young Horses        

Osteoarthritis in young horses is usually treated with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. If there is cartilage damage the veterinarian may recommend a treatment plan with polysulfated glycosaminoglycans medication. Physical therapy may include swimming.

Recovery of Developmental Orthopedic Disease in Horses

If diagnosed and treated early, the prognosis of developmental orthopedic disease is very good in most horses.  It will be imperative to follow the veterinarian’s treatment plan for your horse.  Some cases of developmental orthopedic disease may require the horse to be on lifelong medications.  Good nutrition is essential for your young horse.

If the patient underwent surgery you will be given postoperative instructions on how to care for the bandages and incision. Restricted exercise will be required.  Follow up visits will be needed to remove the sutures.

Developmental orthopedic patients will need to be closely monitored of their.  Bloodwork, urinalysis, fecal exam and x-rays will need to be repeated to ensure a good prognosis.