What is Fractures of the Shoulder?
Injury to the shoulder that can cause a fracture is usually caused by a fall or by running into something solid such as a fence. Because of the massive amount of muscle in this area, it can be hard to diagnose and almost impossible for an x-ray to pick up. Ultrasound can be very useful in diagnosing this injury. Recovery depends on the extent of the injury and usually involves long periods of rest for your horse.
Although uncommon, the cause for fractures of the shoulder in horses can be through overtraining or falls, and in young foals it is usually due to direct falls or some sort of trauma.
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Symptoms of Fractures of the Shoulder in Horses
- Difficulty standing or supporting the weight with the limbs affected
- Abrasions may be seen on the skin can be seen if trauma is involved
- Signs of swelling at and around the fracture site
- Pain when manipulated or prodded
- Severe lameness can occur
When the shoulder bears the brunt of impact from a fall or a collision, then fractures can occur to this heavily muscled area:
- Humerus bone stress fractures are usually uncommon and occur in race horses
- Deltoid tuberosity fractures are usually the result of a kick from another horse
- The scapula area is the most common fracture site
- Stress fractures are usually incomplete fractures
- Large fractures in the bone
Causes of Fractures of the Shoulder in Horses
- Usually injuries cause these sort of fractures
- Your horse may have been kicked by another, causing the fracture as horses have a lot of muscular power
- Trauma is another cause and this can happen if your horse collides with another, or slams into the side of a fence
- Falls can be catastrophic for your horse with the blow causing a fracture because of the weight of your horse hitting against the hard surface
Diagnosis of Fractures of the Shoulder in Horses
The diagnosis requires veterinary assistance for an examination of the shoulder region. You may find your horse reacts to probing or manipulation, or you may see swelling around the wound area. If your horse had a fall or collision, or was kicked by another horse, you may see signs on the skin as to the trauma inflicted. The best way to examine internally is though using radiography which will allow the specialist to see the extent of the injury. Recovery and treatment all depend on the severity of the fracture and how it has affected the surrounding tissue. The fracture will have affected the stance of your horse. All horses are solid powerful animals and any breakage or fracture can adversely affect the other bones of your horse. Lameness is a result with your friend being unable to stand correctly and this in turn causes problems with the other limbs that must support the limb that is not functioning. Your horse may have a dropped elbow tendency because the bones can no longer support the weight of the body.
Treatment of Fractures of the Shoulder in Horses
As with all fractures, treatment depends on the severity of the fracture and the age, use, and personality of your horse. Your veterinarian can assist the fracture through surgical repairing of the bone or applying an implant to support and assist healing. Surgery is often difficult because of the use of anesthesia; you must discuss the viability of this option with the veterinary surgeon, keeping in mind the effect on the horse, the severity of the fracture, and the chance of success. If the fracture has only small fragments of bone that are causing a problem, these can be removed but keep in mind the amount of muscle in this area that may also need repairing if surgical methods are used. Ultrasonography is often used to track the healing to enable the equine specialist to see whether the bone is recovering. Most stress fractures are incomplete fractures and heal exceptionally well with your horse returning to training within a few months. Severe unstable fractures require serious consideration about how this will impact on your horse’s quality of life and your veterinarian will be able to advise in this situation. However, often with rest and care your horse can return to a normal life.
Recovery of Fractures of the Shoulder in Horses
The recovery process requires rest and time for a complete recovery. Depending on your horse’s personality, this rest and box confinement may not affect him. However, there are horses who resent confinement and therefore, recovery may be more difficult. It is a balancing act between total rest and some allowed activity, as total rest can cause other problems such as other injury in the supporting joints or limbs. Sometimes recovery is uncomplicated with your horse only requiring limited activity such as a light walk once healing has begun. Your veterinarian will want to check on progress during this period and can advise on how to introduce light exercise back into your horse’s life.