What are Periostitis?
Periostitis is classified as a repetitive strain injury caused by too rigorous of a training schedule, especially on hard ground. This affects the cannon bone where the front surface suffers greater compression than the back surface, causing the periosteum on the front surface to be damaged and torn. Stress fractures may appear to compound the injury. It can also come from trauma injury caused by your horse kicking his stall. Inflammation of the connective tissue that envelops the bone can bring heat to the area and subsequent lameness may result. Your equine veterinarian can evaluate the extent of the condition and offer treatment suggestions, allowing for a good prognosis of recovery in most cases.
Periostitis affects the limbs of younger horses and occurs during the growth stage when your horse may be extremely active.
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Symptoms of Periostitis in Horses
- Difficulty in walking resulting in lameness in one or more legs
- Significant swelling around the cannon bone area
- Development of a thick yellow discharge or pus
- Painful or sore shins
- Abscesses may eventually form in severe cases
- A puncture wound can become infected
- Heat can be felt from the affected area
- Hobbling gait or stumbling
- Periostitis comes in two forms, acute and subacute
- Acute – There is a possibility that the condition can get into the bone which leads to a grim prognosis
- Subacute - The more common condition with the periosteum thickening and sometimes new bone will grow
- Periostitis can also form in the lower jaw because of poorly fitted bits that cause injury
- Suppurative periostitis – The inflammation is complicated by pus formation
Causes of Periostitis in Horses
- During their growth phase, your young horse may be affected because of extreme activity
- Injuries to the lower jaw from ill fitted bits can cause this condition
- Over training on a hard track places stress on the cannon bone
- Poor blood circulation due to the condition
- Trauma injury such as kicking against the stable wall
- Puncture wounds
Diagnosis of Periostitis in Horses
You will observe your horse’s reluctance to exercise or he may even begin to go lame. You may be able to isolate the area causing the problem and notice that there is a lot of heat in the affected area. If this is the case, it is advisable to call in your local equine veterinarian to diagnose the condition. Pain is also a symptom that can help diagnose the beginning of this disease. Pain may cause your horse to flinch when the area is palpated which can be a handy measure to see where the pain is coming from. Radiography may be used during diagnosis to see the extent of the damage to the area, and to verify whether the associated bony changes involve a joint or not. Your veterinarian will be able to confirm what is affecting your beloved horse and can make suggestions about the best way to treat this condition.
Treatment of Periostitis in Horses
Once this condition develops, treatment requires rest and rehabilitation to allow healing. Pain relief for your horse may be needed, depending on the severity of the condition. This relief can be provided with Butazolidin medication which your veterinarian may prescribe. If stress fractures are suspected, X-rays will be needed to confirm them. Your equine specialist may also prescribe the use of an ice pack to assist with the inflammation. In some cases, pressure bandages may be required to assist healing and provide support for your horse.
Other treatment can consist of injections of cortisone to help reduce the inflammation. As with many conditions, time is a great healer and a period of prolonged rest may be necessary to allow for complete healing to occur. With advanced stages of this condition the bone may begin to die and it may crumble and exit the body through the bloodstream, pus formation or discharge. If it cannot escape, the risk of blood poisoning becomes very real. If the condition is observed and treated early, the prognosis for a full recovery is very good.
Recovery of Periostitis in Horses
This condition is another case of prevention being the best course of action. Rather than pushing your young horse too fast into a training regimen, conditioning programs designed to promote bone strength in your horse will be well worth the effort. Easing into an exercise routine that allows rest and recovery to permit the body to adjust and adapt is far better than an overzealous training schedule that may cause problems in later months. New advances in treatments and care are being developed with PRP therapy. Using your horse’s own blood platelets and the use of stem cells are two innovative treatments that are showing promising results in harnessing the horse’s natural healing powers. Ongoing research is being carried out to provide the maximum healing during treatments.
Periostitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 2 year old was kicked on the outside cannon six months ago. The resulting injury had left a hard, boney lump. It is cold and pain free, is there anything I can do to reduce the size of it...... anything topical or magnetic boots? He's not in work and out 24/7 at the moment. Thanks in advance
It sounds like Sprout has a splint which is a bony reaction due to trauma. Whilst the size may increase, it will eventually get smaller but may never disappear. If the lump isn’t causing any problems, there is no need to treat but I would recommend having an x-ray done just to make sure there are no fractures or other problems. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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