A few weeks ago a very observant trainer called to schedule a yearling for a chiropractic evaluation. He was hoping an adjustment would improve the movement in the hind end – the yearling just acted stiff.
On initial exam, he was right, the colt was stiff in the right hind. Further exam revealed slight swelling in the right stifle. The above radiograph was taken and showed a large bone defect (circled). A surgeon confirmed it was a large OCD lesion.
OCD (Osteochondrosis dissecans) is a developmental disease that can affect any joint, but most commonly the hock, stifle and fetlock. Cartilage in affected joints doesn’t form normally; this causes the cartilage and bone underneath it to become irregular in thickness and weaker than in normal joints. This can cause cartilage and bone flaps to form and can result in inflammation in the joint and over time may lead to the development of arthritis.
There are several factors that can lead to OCD. Rapid growth and large size, nutrition (high energy or imbalanced rations), genetics, hormone imbalances and trauma (even routine exercise can cause flaps to loosen.)
Swelling is one of the earliest signs. Many times the horse will appear sound until being put to work.
Surgery is required in many cases. In the above case, because the horse is so young, surgeons recommended radiographing again in 4-6 months to see if the defect is healing itself (unlikely). Most respond very well to surgical treatment.
So, back to the question: Is this a Chiropractic issue? While this horse was not adjusted, Chiropractic should definitely be part of the program due to the effects of compensation. The key is to keep everything else moving as normal as possible. This will also help the body in its attempt to try to heal itself.