What is Luxation of the Coxofemoral Joint?
Luxation of the coxofemoral joint is more common in small ponies like the Shetland pony. When a horse is diagnosed with luxation of the coxofemoral joint it is generally secondary to a trauma that has been sustained. Many times a fracture of the dorsal acetabular rim accompanies this luxation.
Luxation of the coxofemoral joint means that there is a partial dislocation between the femur and the pelvis. In horses, this is a rare condition because of the strong ligamentous support that is provided to the joint. The round ligament, accessory femoral ligament and fibrocartilaginous lip that surround the acetabulum also support the coxofemoral joint.
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Symptoms of Luxation of the Coxofemoral Joint in Horses
Luxation of the coxofemoral joint is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention to give your horse the best chance of recovery. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- Lameness, generally acute onset of lameness
- Crepitus, or a bone grinding noise
- Muscle atrophy
- Pelvic asymmetry
- Severe joint effusion or fluid swelling within the joint
- Affected leg will appear shorter
- Standing with the toe and stifle pointing out and hock pointing in
- Unwilling to walk
- Refusing to allow palpation of the affected area
Causes of Luxation of the Coxofemoral Joint in Horses
In most cases, the cause of luxation of the coxofemoral joint is from some form of trauma. Horses that have been diagnosed with this condition have had a documented trauma within the last few weeks. Trauma can include slipping, falling or hitting a solid object such as a stall wall, fence post or tree.
There have been a few documented cases where a horse is born with a weak coxofemoral joint, but this is extremely rare.
Diagnosis of Luxation of the Coxofemoral Joint in Horses
Diagnosis of the luxation of the coxofemoral joint will begin with your veterinarian completing a full physical assessment, followed by watching your horse move and palpating the affected area. Many times, your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the luxation of the coxofemoral joint simply by conducting a physical examination and watching your horse move on the affected leg.
To give a definitive diagnosis, your veterinarian may order radiographs of the pelvis. The radiograph should clearly show the luxation as well as any tears or fractures within the surrounding ligaments and bones. Your horse will need to be sedated under general anesthesia to obtain the correct views necessary for radiographs to be successful.
Many veterinarians have begun using an ultrasound to diagnose luxation of the coxofemoral joint. This can be done while the horse remains standing and does not require general anesthesia.
Treatment of Luxation of the Coxofemoral Joint in Horses
Once your horse has been diagnosed with luxation of the coxofemoral joint, your veterinarian will discuss the different treatment options that are available. These treatment options may include rest, chiropractic or acupuncture therapy or even surgery. As with any injury to the pelvis, the condition can be treated but your horse will never be able to perform at the same capacity as before the injury occurred.
Stall rest will be ordered for your horse while you decide on the best course of treatment for your horse. If the luxation is mild, extended rest may be all that is required for your horse’s body to heal. Although in most cases only stall rest will not fix the luxation of the coxofemoral joint.
Chiropractic therapies are growing in popularity. In chiropractic therapy, subluxation complex is where the joint surfaces are not in the right position by only millimeters. The joint still functions but not well, meaning your horse is still experiencing pain and the chiropractic therapy will help shift the joint surface back into its proper alignment. The equine chiropractor, using their hands, gives short, sharp thrusts to the coxofemoral joint to achieve the correct alignment.
Acupuncture has also been used with some success on horses suffering from luxation of the coxofemoral joint. Equine acupuncture therapy is derived from the Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine from over 3000 years ago. During this therapy, the coxofemoral joint is stimulated using acupuncture points throughout the body to produce a therapeutic effect. The goal is to promote pain relief and reduce inflammation.
Surgery should be the last resort. Surgery will be done to replace the femur to fit the new femur properly within the coxofemoral joint. If surgery is successful, your horse should be able to recover well enough to be a pasture horse. Your horse will not be able to be ridden again. In some cases, horses that have had corrective surgery can still be bred.
Recovery of Luxation of the Coxofemoral Joint in Horses
Your veterinarian will discuss your horse’s prognosis once treatments have begun. Be sure to follow all treatment plans as ordered to ensure the best prognosis for your horse.
All horses that are diagnosed with luxation of the coxofemoral joint will eventually develop arthritis in the joint. Medications can help control the pain of an arthritic horse, but eventually the quality of life will deteriorate and euthanasia is recommended.
Luxation of the Coxofemoral Joint Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I would like to know what kins of exercises could my horse do to stabilize de coxofemoral joint. Thank you very much! They have done gammmagraphy and x.rays and you can see how the femur is displaced dorsally
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