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What are Stifle Injuries?

The most complex joint in the horse is the stifle joint. The joint includes the kneecap and its ligaments, which give structural stability. Similar to the human knee, the stifle is located on the horse’s hind limbs. Encircling the whole stifle joint is a thin capsule that has a special fluid that assists with shock absorption and lubrication. Certain ligaments that cause the leg to not bend too much in either direction are present inside and outside of the stifle. 

When properly working, the stifle allows the horse to be stable as well as smoothly move forward. Should he experience trauma, quick directional changes or deceleration, it will cause pressure that can lead to stifle injury. Due to the somewhat open construction of the stifle, as well as its size, swelling will often develop. Serious stifle injuries are often made more complicated due to fractures.

Trauma to the stifle, the horse’s most complex joint, can lead to stifle injury; in addition, some horses experience developmental disorders of the stifle, which will impact them as foals or young horses.

Stifle Injuries Average Cost

From 471 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

Symptoms of Stifle Injuries in Horses

Should your horse experience a stifle injury, you may witness the following:

  • Swelling
  • Lameness
  • Seemingly intolerant of exercise
  • Kneecap locking up
  • Joint thickening

Types 

Trauma along with different diseases can impact the stifle. Often, stifle diseases are divided into two types:

Acquired Disorders

This includes arthritis, degenerative joint disease, fractures and trauma (like an injury to the cruciate ligament). These issues result from infection, bacteria or trauma. Sudden and severe onset with sudden and obvious lameness and swelling point to an acquired disease in the stifle.

Developmental Disorders

These diseases are present at the time of birth and may or may not be the result of genetic abnormalities. Developmental disorders of the stifle typically impact foals and young horses who will initially show subtle symptoms. As the horse gets older and begins training, you will see swelling of the stifle and ongoing, low level lameness. Often the lameness and swelling will be very obvious with continuous exercise, and then decrease when activity is reduced. Examples of developmental disorders include osteochondritis dissecans, subchondral bone cysts and patellar luxation.

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Causes of Stifle Injuries in Horses

There are several possible causes of stifle injuries. They may be the result of direct trauma or as a result of stress to the joint area from activities that involve quick directional changes, slowing down quickly and repeated jumping (as in activities like roping, cutting and barrel racing).

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Diagnosis of Stifle Injuries in Horses

After conducting a physical examination of your horse, your veterinarian will use a variety of methods, to include digital x-rays, ultrasound and curvilinear ultrasound probes in examining the stifle joint and making a diagnosis. These tools will help your veterinarian get images of the different parts of the joint. Exploratory arthroscopic surgery may be useful when trying to determine the cause of the problem. Intra-articular anesthesia of the stifle is often key in diagnosing the problem and is used to localize the lameness. 

It is important for your veterinarian to get an understanding of which part of the stifle is impacted and what is causing the problem in order for him to recommend the correct treatment.

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Treatment of Stifle Injuries in Horses

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed the stifle injury in your horse, treatment will vary based upon the specific injury or disease. Rest will be recommended in order to alleviate the swelling and provide the opportunity for the joint to begin to heal. In cases where the joint capsule is stretched and not ruptured, recovery can happen with 2-3 months of rest and a slow return to activity. When inflammation is present, intra-articular medication may be recommended.

If there is a lesion present on radiography or if there has been no resolution to symptoms after a period of rest possibly including intra-articular medication, surgery may be considered. When the collateral ligament or cruciate ligaments are injured, treatment will frequently not be effective. This will lead the joint to become unstable and can progress to arthritis and ongoing lameness.

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Recovery of Stifle Injuries in Horses

Should your horse be diagnosed with a stifle injury or condition, you will want to follow the recommendations of your veterinarian to ensure the best outcome for him. It is likely that follow up appointments will be recommended so that your veterinarian can assess the condition of your horse’s stifle and determine whether treatment is effective.

There are things that you can do to prevent stifle injuries in your horse. You can help him avoid direct trauma to the joint by not pushing him past his abilities, particularly in performance activities. It is important to keep an eye on your horse and be cognizant of any possible stifle injuries and act right away if you notice anything of concern by having your horse examined. The stifle joint is complicated and hard to evaluate with radiography because of its mass, surrounding tissue and soft tissue structures.

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Stifle Injuries Average Cost

From 471 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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Stifle Injuries Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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thoroughbred

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4 Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

My horse is swollen around the joint of her stifle. She is sore to the touch but isn't lame to walk on it. She still runs and bucks in the pasture as normal but doesn't want to be touched in the area. Should I call a vet to look at her? If it's not too necessary. What would be my road to recovery?

Nov. 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

I do think that the next best step would be to call your veterinarian. Without being able to see her, it is difficult to say what might be happening. Your veterinarian will be to look at her, assess her gait and her joints, and see what might be going on.

Nov. 20, 2020

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Thoroughbred

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Stabbing Movements With Left Hind

My new horse of a month has begun making up and down stabbing movements with his left hind at the trot, once in the paddock and once under saddle. What does this mean? I am assuming stifle, but I don't know whether to rest it or "do hills" as everyone says.

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 23, 2020

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Harvey

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Cob

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11 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Slight Soreness

Hi, My gelding had his back done a little over a month ago, and I was told he was a little sore in his stifle and pelvis. I did think he had something going on in his hind but I'm not hugely experienced. He was great after that but the last few days he seems to be a little sore again. He is not lame and is fine to ride even jumping no problem (small jumps) I also asked my instructor while I was having a lesson and she said he looked fine. But he seems to always be resting that hind leg and when picking out his feet he will pick it up but not keen on keeping it up and he slams it back down. Should I get the

Aug. 7, 2018

Harvey's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Without examining Harvey myself, I cannot say specifically what is going on with his stifle; if he is showing discomfort during picking out his feet or is reluctant to put weight on the leg I would call out your Veterinarian/Chiropractor/Physiotherapist for a follow up examination to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 7, 2018

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Jackson

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Welsh Cob

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15 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lame Ness In Canter

Hi, I've got a 15 year old welsh cob who we noticed approx 4 weeks ago wasn't using his off hind properly in canter, he almost feels disunited on the right rein. He feels fine in trot at the minute. We did some flexion tests on his hind legs today and when we flexed his off hind including the stifle he trotted off lame! He has no heat, swelling etc to see! He's not dragging his toes or anything obvious

May 26, 2018

Jackson's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Lameness in horses can be tricky to pin down especially when only evident during canter or trot; if you’re unable to identify a cause yourself I would suggest calling out your Veterinarian for an examination to help narrow in on a cause. In the meantime, you should keep Jackson rested and give gentle walks. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 27, 2018

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Ax

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Thoroughbred

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Not Willing To Flex Upper Hind Legs

Hi, I'm considering buying a 4 year old Thoroughbred (raced once) and the vet check came back inconclusive. As to the horse's hind legs, the vet was "Unable to perform whole/upper limb flexion test, not willing to flex leg up more than 10 seconds. No heat, swelling, tenderness or other abnormalities detected, except mild fetlock joint effusion. Hoof testers=negative; Static flexion=negative." Also, the vet found "Moderate reactivity to palpation of sacral/SI region, horse almost kicked out." What can be done to get more conclusive data to help me make a decision on whether to buy the horse which has a wonderful disposition, conformation and performance in walk, trot, canter and jumps?

May 25, 2018

Ax's Owner

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0 Recommendations

For me, if there is any doubt you should not proceed with the purchase of the horse; however if you are wanting to proceed with pre purchase examinations I would call out another Veterinarian to examine Ax to get another hands on opinion before going down more expensive methods of examination which may be just as unrewarding. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 26, 2018

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Dakota

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American Quarter horse

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27 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My mare got her rope under the door handle of the trailer a couple of days ago. She pulled back but the rope did not break. She has always been good to give but not that day. When she finally gave it up she was very sore on the left rear. I hand walked her and she seemed to move better after a little movement. At thew time I thought it was in her hoick. The next day there was a lot of swelling in her stifle area. She is grazing and moving about. I am giving her 2 grams of Butte AM and PM and watching her. She got down to roll and had a terrible time getting up. She stumbled side wise several steps before recovering. Any closer to the fence and it would have been another wreck. I know this is going to take considerable time to mend. Can I do more for her comfort?

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Blondie

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Sec d

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2 Weeks

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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Won’T Put Foot Down Leg A Bit Puffy

Blondie has laminitis on Wednesday she was walking a lot better went to put her in she could hardly put back leg on the floor it’s her stifle she’s on danilon is there anything more I can do for her

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Hemmingsway's Valentine

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Warmblood

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Short Stride On Leg With Growth.

My 6 year old mare has a growth over her stifle that does not involve joint.It is the size of big marble and is not cancer.Vet injected it with cortisone and it has got a little smaller.She is lame on that leg and will not reach forward but flexes fines.We did 28 days adequan ,no diffents.Xray foot to stifle and saw nothing.What could it be?Should I have growth removed?

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Vali

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Warmblood

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Stifle

My mare now 16 had a stifle injury over a year ago stretched the maniscus was a long journey had vet out a lot for checks people are asking why does she's need the joint supplement

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Rhoda

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American paint horse

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Soreness And Lameness In Left Hind Area

I have a 5 year old mare. Two weeks ago she appeared lame on her left hind leg. I thought it could be been something in her hoof. Checked it again and again. There was nothing in there. Felt up her leg towards the stifle and inner leg. She seemed a little sore. So I done water therapy and dmso. Literally the next day she seemed fine. From the beginning no heat or swelling. Then about a week later, lameness on the same leg. Again, it disappeared. So, day before yesterday TERRIBLE lameness. Treating with banamine, muscle rub and stall rest with limited turnout in an indoor arena. Appetite is great, mood is great. Mobility if bad. I've not to this day found any swelling. But, it does seem to be in that area of the stifle. Just has me baffled. Even with the sore leg she used it to threaten one of our weanlings. Does not put weight on it, but can Bend it with no problem. Next step is veterinarian. Just curious if this sounds like anyone else's experiences. Thank you.

Stifle Injuries Average Cost

From 471 quotes ranging from $4,000 - $10,000

Average Cost

$6,000

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