What are Fracture of the Carpal Bones?
The hardest thing for this sort of injury is that your horse is a heavy animal and by nature they don’t lie down for long. Due to this factor, the issue when a horse experiences a fracture of the carpal bone is keeping the stress off the damaged bones while they are healing. Carpal fractures are the most common cause of lameness in your horse. Treatment of this condition depends largely on the site of the fracture and the extent of the damage. New advances in technology have allowed many of these types of injuries to be fixed.
A fracture can occur through trauma during exercise, especially if on uneven ground, that causes a crack or fissure.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Fracture of the Carpal Bones in Horses
- Your horse may hang his head as a sign of discomfort
- A limping motion leading to lameness of the limb
- Pain on movement or flexing the limb
- A severe fracture may see the bone protruding through the skin
- Swelling at the area of injury
- Reluctance to move or walk
- Osteoarthritis of the knee joints often affect the knee area causing fractures
- The fractures in this area are usually a chip fracture
- Parts of the bone break off the knee cuboidal bone
- Carpal chip fractures usually occur in race horses
- Slab fractures of one or more bones
- Third carpal bone sclerosis
Causes of Fracture of the Carpal Bones in Horses
- Most often the cause for injury is trauma, with the bone unable to cope with the pressure or the impact from exercising on hard ground at high speed
- Trauma can be caused by repetitive physical exercise such as racing or jumping
- Falls or stepping into a hole and twisting the limb can cause this condition
- Osteoarthritis in the knee joints
Diagnosis of Fracture of the Carpal Bones in Horses
If you notice your horse stumble and then begin to limp, it is vital to dismount if you are riding your horse, and stop him from any further major movement. You may notice the carpal swelling shortly afterwards, and it is recommended that you call your veterinarian to ascertain the amount of damage done. Diagnosis will be from an external examination at first as your veterinary specialist will try to flex the joint and feel around it for signs of fragments or chips. The joint it is a very complex structure with many small bones and ligaments making up the three main joints. It is the veterinarian’s task to determine where the injury is and to what extent. The most useful techniques to discover where the injury is come from the use of x-rays and ultrasound. By using these techniques, your veterinarian will be able to see what part of the bones are fractured or if there is a chip off the bone that is causing a problem. It may be a type of osteoarthritis of the knee joints that may be causing the fractures; this can be seen via the x-ray or ultrasound.
Treatment of Fracture of the Carpal Bones in Horses
If your horse suffers from osteoarthritis of the knee, treatment is often using injections of medication into the joint, and relies on rest and anti-inflammatory medication to assist healing. In severe cases, if your horse is not used for breeding, the fusing of the joints may provide relief from lameness. For carpal chip injury, your horse may be treated by removal of the chip of bone that is causing damage to the surrounding tissue. This can be done via keyhole surgery or arthroscopy, and provides a good insurance against your horse developing further arthritis in that joint. If the chip is tiny, medications can improve the healing without the need for surgery. It all depends on where the fracture is, the age of your horse and the severity of any arthritis present.
Recovery of Fracture of the Carpal Bones in Horses
Depending on the location and severity of the injury, treatment for your horse is usually straightforward with an excellent recovery rate. Most horses can recover to full performance. Your horse will need time though to recover fully, and a period of box confinement and rest is essential; this can take between two and three months. Your horse may need an injection of joint blocking medication to ease the pain to begin with. As your horse heals and at your veterinarian’s advice, you can then start retraining with walking to begin with, and then progress to a trot after healing. As your horse recovers, you can slowly increase the exercise until he can fully trot or gallop again.