What is Navicular Disease?
Navicular bone disease was once thought to be caused by only one factor. Today however, veterinarians now understand this is not true and actually has a lot of components contributing to the cause. It is a degenerative disease that only worsens once it starts and unfortunately, there is no cure. You can manage the condition in your horse though. For example, you can ensure he has plenty of rest, proper shoeing, and medications such as anti-inflammatories. Symptoms other than chronic lameness can include shortened stride, stumbling when ridden, and poorly balanced feet. Once diagnosed properly, you can begin supportive care with the guidance of your veterinarian. Your horse will not make a recovery, but you can try to prevent it from worsening and keep him comfortable.
One of the most common causes of chronic lameness in horses is navicular disease. If your horse is presenting with any form of lameness, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation.
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Symptoms of Navicular Disease in Horses
Symptoms may include:
- Intermittent lameness
- Chronic lameness
- Bilateral disease affects
- Shortened stride
- Poorly balanced feet
- Stumbling when ridden
- Digital vessels palpably enlarged
Navicular disease is a degenerative disease that only worsens once it begins. In the past, veterinarians believed it was one disease with many symptoms, different clinical conditions, and different etiologies. However, upon further studies, they admitted it was basically impossible for one disease to have all the components it does.
Causes of Navicular Disease in Horses
The exact cause of navicular disease is unknown. Veterinarians believe there is some sort of biomechanical component involving pathogenesis. Genetics play a role in predisposition to this condition as well.
Diagnosis of Navicular Disease in Horses
Diagnosis of navicular disease can be based largely on the presentation of the horse. Certain ages and breeds of horses are more prone to developing the disease than others. A lameness evaluation is needed in order to diagnose this condition but should be noted when trying for pain with hoof testers, the response is rarely positive.
This condition also presents a very specific response when given a nerve block in the palmar digital region. In many cases, after the block is administered, the lameness is eliminated. In some patients, when the nerve block is applied to one forelimb, the lameness then is transferred to and displayed on the other forelimb. This can help confirm the condition.
The veterinarian will want to take radiographs to check the entire area for damage. She may also want to lunge him to see his response. In cases of navicular disease, lunging will lead your horse to exhibit lameness on the inside of his foot. A flexion test is also beneficial as it may intensify lameness.
Treatment of Navicular Disease in Horses
Stall rest will be a good idea for your horse; however, you do not want to keep him cooped up for too long. This can lead to its own set of problems.
Unfortunately, navicular disease cannot be cured, only managed. Effective treatments can include anti-inflammatory medications to be given as needed. Also, getting him shoed correctly will also prove to be beneficial. A nerve block in the area may be helpful in reducing the lameness but may not get rid of it entirely. In some cases, injecting the coffin joint with a corticosteroid will improve your horse’s soundness. Injecting a corticosteroid into the navicular bursa will also significantly increase soundness.
In some cases of navicular disease, a palmar digital neurectomy can prolong the use of your horse and provide him pain relief, but it is not a cure. There are many complication associated with this procedure and a decision should not be made without the proper research.
There is also a therapy treatment known as photobiomodulation, or laser light therapy that can help speed up your horse’s healing process. It is relatively new to the veterinary medicine world but has proved to be useful in many species of animals and in treating a large variety of conditions. This laser light emits diodes to stimulate cellular function. This will help the bone to regenerate cells quicker, improve blood flow to the area, offers an analgesic effect, and quickens recovery time.
Recovery of Navicular Disease in Horses
There is no recovery from navicular disease. There is no cure, only supportive therapies you can offer him to provide him comfort. In some cases, owners try to continue to use their horses and end up with them having no response to any type of treatment whatsoever.