Some lame horses have simple problems to both diagnose and treat, however many lame horses have quite complex problems that involve special diagnostic and imaging techniques. It is for that reason that many clients and / or referring veterinarians send their difficult cases in to our hospital for diagnosis and treatment. GVEH specializes in the diagnosis and management of lame horses. Horses with subtle lameness but no localizing signs require an experienced specialist to carefully assess the problem, using diagnostic nerve blocks in order to localize the site of the lameness.
This is carried out by selectively anaesthetising specific areas or joints (nerve or joint blocks).
After the point of origin of lameness has been identified, then X-rays, ultrasonography or other imaging techniques are used to best determine how to treat the problem.
Recently, a new scintigraphy system has been installed. This involves injecting the lame horse with a radioactive substance. Subsequently a gamma camera is used to detect the increased uptake of the radioactivity which indicates the site of inflamation /inflammed bone (often the cause of the underlying lameness).
The demands of identifying specific conditions in a wide range of breeds has lead us to develop a variety of techniques and conditions to examine lame horses. We have a specific lameness track with a hard, smooth surface, that horses can be trotted on. GVEH has an 800 metre training track so horses can be ridden at various speeds or Standardbreds can be driven on.
No dedicated lameness facility would be complete without involvement of expert farrier attention. Our farrier is integral to our team approach. We have a forge and room devoted to the manufacture of shoes and shoeing of horses with problems such as founder (laminitis) or navicular disease.
One of the goals of our veterinary attention is to return the horse to work as soon as safely possible after the problem has been corrected. Attention to proper therapeutic shoeing reduces this time.
We really like this equipment, although it has one drawback which is the plate and lead are quite vulnerable. They cost more than an expensive car so we like to tranquilise the patients before starting to X ray them. The system we use is manufactured in the USA by Eklin.
Scintigraphy is often referred to as bone scanning or nuclear medicine. A radioactive isotope (technetium 99m) is injected into the horse's vein and then at a specified time period (less for soft tissue ~ 10 min and more for bone ~ 3 hours) the horse is placed in a room with a gamma counter head that detects radiation emitted from the uptake of the radioactive substance. This is presented as an image with a broad outline of the structure being examined and a area of suspicion (hot spot) where the isotope is being concentrated. The isotope concentrates in areas of active bone remodelling. It is very useful for problems that are not immediately identifiable with nerve blocks.