Ask the Vet – Dealing with Navicular issues in horses
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Ask the Vet – Dealing with Navicular issues in horses

February 26, 2020

SARAH: “I have a horse
who was recently diagnosed with navicular disorder. Can you explain this
in simple terms? He’s being managed
by the farrier and is currently
sound and ridable. Would any of your supplements
serve my horse well?” The reason I picked this
question is my Quarter Horse, Cody, who is going to be
28 April 1st, has had, since he was probably
six years old, on and off lameness
issues in his front end, which was initially referred
to as navicular disease. Was then referred to
as navicular syndrome, and then by later
vets and articles that I was reading,
caudal heel pain syndrome. And so has a whole evolution
of names and terminology. And this is something that
I’ve done a lot of reading on. And I think there are a
lot of people out there who could benefit from
hearing this answer. DR LYDIA GRAY: Well,
here’s what I have found, that navicular
disease, it’s generally accepted that that refers to
the actual navicular bone. So progressive degeneration
of the bone, usually because of circulatory reasons. When the term
“navicular syndrome” is used, then it refers to,
like you said, can be heel pain, it can be caudal third
of the hoof pain, it can be– there’s
lots of terms for it, but the point is it’s
more structures could be involved than just the bone. And what structures
are we talking about? And I don’t know if
you found this out, but we use ultrasound. We use x-rays or radiography. MRI is very handy
for this, and CAT scans, to say that the
coffin joint, the coffin bone, the navicular bursa,
which is a little fluid filled sack between
the navicular bone, and the deep digital
flexor tendon. Could be that. There’s a couple of
ligaments down there, the impar ligament, the
collateral sesamoidean ligament. So now we’re learning through
this enhanced imaging, that we have now that we didn’t
have 10, 20, 30 years ago, that it might not
be the bone that’s causing horse’s discomfort,
usually in the front legs, it could be one of
these other structures. And it could be a
joint or soft tissue. So now, the treatments that
we’ve had, many of them to increase circulation
in the foot, some of them for bone rebuilding, like
the new bisphosphonates, the Tildren and the Osphos. If the problem isn’t
bone, then they’re not going to be helpful. So my advice for anyone that’s
got a horse with navicular is you’ve got to find
out what structure is affected, because you
could be chasing squirrels. Is that the saying? You could be chasing
things, and spending money, and going around and around
and not helping your horse for a long time. So that’s why the
ultrasound and the MRI, it might seem like a
lot of money upfront, and a lot of work, because
you have to go somewhere. But it’s worth it
in the long run, because they might say
what your horse has will be helped by a
joint injection, tendon support, something for
the bursa specifically. We need to get in there
with some ingredients. So there’s lots of
prescription medications that your veterinarian
can choose from, once they know what the issue is. And it will also help you
tailor your supplement program in conjunction with
your veterinarian. I think discomfort is something
that we want to address, no matter what it is. So there’s
nonsteroidals for this that can be given systemically
or topically, like Surpass. And then there’s
things people love, Devil’s Claw, and yucca,
bromelain, MSM, Omega 3s hardly ever wrong, maybe never wrong. There’s lots of ingredients. And I would encourage
you to go on our website and read reviews, because I
go on there and I read stuff. And people choose maybe one
of our SmartSupplements, maybe another one,
another brand, and they found great
success with their horse in relieving discomfort. So they’re like “At least I
can help manage him and not have him feel so bad while
we’re working this out.” But you have to get
your farrier involved and work on trimming
and shoeing, and maybe a footing change,
maybe a discipline change, maybe you need to look at
your turnout and your exercise program. So it’s kind of a holistic
view you have to take. But we’re learning, because
of enhanced imaging, there’s a lot more to navicular
than we used to think. So there’s lots out there. I would encourage you
to get a diagnosis. SARAH: I strongly second
that recommendation. And I agree exactly
with what you said. It can seem intimidating
upfront that getting the right diagnosis
seems really expensive. Not more expensive than
treating the wrong problem. DR LYDIA GRAY: Exactly. SARAH: I think that’s
good way to think of it. DR LYDIA GRAY: Your
horse will thank you. SARAH: Yeah. That’s true.

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