What are Sesamoiditis?
Sesamoiditis is a condition that occurs when the sesamoid bones become inflamed and cannot work properly. Sesamoiditis is a common condition that affects athletic horses, especially horses that place extreme pressure or stress on the sesamoid bones during exercise.
Horses that are overweight or have noticeably longer pasterns and low heels are more prone to developing sesamoiditis. Researchers have also suggested that some horses have a genetic predisposition for sesamoiditis, especially those with faulty blood flow to the sesamoid bones.
The sesamoid bones in the legs of your horse are attached to the ligaments that help move the leg as it moves over the back of the fetlock joint. It is a similar action to that of the navicular bone within the horse’s foot. The location of the sesamoid bones makes them vulnerable to injuries. These injuries can be very difficult to repair.
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Symptoms of Sesamoiditis in Horses
Since the sesamoid bones are located in a tricky place, repairing them can be difficult and many times unable to fully function again. It is very important to contact your veterinarian for a full assessment if you notice any symptoms that could be related to sesamoiditis.
- Sensitivity to pressure on the sesamoid bones
- Warmth felt on the fetlock
- Swelling around the fetlock joint
Causes of Sesamoiditis in Horses
Simply put, sesamoiditis is caused from stress being exerted on the sesamoid bones during strenuous exercise such as jumping or high speed racing. Horses can have faulty blood flow to the sesamoid bones. This can be aggravated by concussive joints and the stress on the ligaments, causing pain, inflammation, and demineralization of the bone.
Diagnosis of Sesamoiditis in Horses
It can sometimes be difficult for veterinarians to diagnose sesamoiditis because over time, injuries can weaken bones before the bones actually fracture. Then it takes more time for the fracture to actually show on any imaging tools.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of your horse. After completing the physical examination, they may decide to try diagnostic anesthesia. This is when your horse is given a nerve block that will allow the painful areas to be manipulated for diagnostic purposes. Diagnostic anesthesia may not give a definitive diagnosis; it will help your veterinarian narrow their search to the fetlock area and a possible sesamoid injury.
Once the search has been narrowed, radiographs will be taken. The radiographs may not show any damage, and if this is the case, waiting about 10-14 days then redoing the radiographs will give the sesamoiditis time to appear. During the 10-14 day waiting period, the horse should remain on stall rest.
Treatment of Sesamoiditis in Horses
Once the definitive diagnosis of sesamoiditis has been made, your veterinarian will discuss treatment options and set a plan in place for your horse. Be sure to follow all instructions and administer medications as prescribed. If you have any questions about the treatments for your horse, you should direct those to your veterinarian.
Hot and cold therapies or poultices on the fetlock will help reduce the inflammation. Confining your horse to their stall for rest is important. Your horse will likely be confined to their stall for up to 30 days. Hand walking your horse will be required for up to 60 days to keep them from re-injuring the sesamoid bones. After the 60 days, limited turnout should be practiced until your veterinarian clears your horse to return to normal activity.
Some veterinarians will recommend a patent shoe or an egg bar shoe. The patent shoe will lift the heel and an elastic bandage will provide support to the affected joint. An egg bar shoe has a squared toe and a wide roll that is designed to ease the break-over; this will reduce the stress on the ligaments and the sesamoid bones.
Anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed as well as intra-articular treatments of the fetlock joint to reduce inflammation within the joint.
Recovery of Sesamoiditis in Horses
Sesamoiditis is treatable with little to no lasting effects, especially if found early enough. The recovery time can seem long, but with the sesamoid bones being in a tricky spot, resting your horse and making sure that they do not overexert themselves during exercise is important to making a full recovery.
It can be difficult to prevent sesamoiditis, especially in athletic horses. You can help keep your horse healthy by limiting the amount of exercise done on hard surfaces and managing your horse’s weight. Also acting quickly when you notice bruising or straining of the sesamoid bones will help your horse recover quicker.