Unfortunately another horse at the ranch has been diagnosed with Navicular Disease. I’ll be following his story on this blog, maybe we can all learn something from him.
Chase is a 5 year old Thoroughbred/Paint mix who had been showing in hunter/jumper classes; recently he became lame and wasn’t getting better. A lameness exam and radiographs confirmed the diagnosis of Navicular Disease.
Chase has been on Previcox for pain management while some experimenting is done with shoeing modifications. The first shoeing attempt is with bar shoes and a wedge heel and slightly rolled toes. He is very sore so it will take a few days to see if the shoeing change is helping.
Next Monday he is scheduled to receive treatment with OsPhos. I will report with more details on his status and treatment at that point. I’ve heard good reports about OsPhos so I’m very interested to find out how the treatment works for him.
Update: Chase has been treated with OsPhos, follow his progress on Chase’s page.
I recently saw an article on a New Zealand site “Horse Talk” entitled “How an eye on equine entheses can beat navicular” By Jean Luc Cornille. Entheses refers to the study of how ligaments and tendons connect to the bone. The article didn’t go into detail but brings up an important point; that it is far better to prevent Navicular Disease than to try to treat it after it has developed. The author of the article is a dressage trainer who suggests that horses with the kind of anatomy that makes them prone to developing Navicular Disease should be trained to carry their weight in a more balanced fashion, or to not carry so much weight on the front feet. Because of the heaviness of the horses head, most horses carry approximately 60% of their weight on their front limbs. Dressage trains the horse to bring the balance back toward the hind legs and to hold the head up. Logically you can see how this can help a navicular horse, the more weight you get off the front feet the less pressure there is on the navicular bone and the associated structures in the feet. However, there are horses trained in dressage that develop navicular disease so this is not a sure cure, but the author does seem to claim that this kind of training can also reverse the disease once it starts. The article says that more information is forthcoming at a conference in October 2015, I’ll be keeping an eye out for what is reported there and keep you updated.
Meanwhile if you are interested here’s a link to the author’s site, Science of Motion. Honestly, there isn’t much practical information on the site probably because he is selling a VERY expensive course in his training method, which may be worth it but I don’t have the money to find out.
A new drug has been approved by the FDA for treatment of horses with Navicular Disease. It is a bisphosphonate drug, in the same class as Tildren, but it is different in the way it is administered. While Tildren must be administered through an IV drip, OsPhos is given in three intramuscular shots in three different locations at the same time. The amount of drug needed is much less with OsPhos and the amount of veterinary monitoring is less, thus the price is generally lower.
This is a newly approved drug so I don’t have any reports on its effectiveness other than the initial trial the manufacturers reported to the FDA for its approval. In the trial they reported that nearly 75% of the horses showed improvement in lameness 56 days after treatment. Most owners reported that it took around two months for the horses to show improvement. The makers claim that this drug treatment can have very long lasting effects, but with the newness of the drug it will be a while before we know for sure. Reported side effects were mild colic and were temporary, walking the horses seemed to be all the treatment that was necessary. The same side effects are reported for Tildren as well.
This is certainly something to talk to your veterinarian about. As I find out more details and hopefully more reports of its effectiveness I will write a longer post about it. If you have tried this with your horse, please leave a comment and let us know about your experience.
It is very important to have the horse diagnosed by a veterinarian as soon as the horse shows symptoms of Navicular syndrome. Several studies I have read suggest that there is a much better chance of returning the horse to soundness if the disease is caught early and treatment begins immediately. Early treatment can prevent the complications with tendons and ligaments in the foot (the second most important thing to know). Early treatments that can slow and perhaps stop the progression of the syndrome include Tilderen, corrective shoeing or barefoot trimming (there’s a lot of controversy between the two and I don’t know which is better).
As mentioned above, the second most important thing to know is that this syndrome affects several structures of the foot, most dangerously the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon (DDFT). Once the DDFT is torn it is difficult but not impossible to restore the horse to soundness, but once the tendon is damaged there is potential for more tearing to occur in the future. A horse in advanced navicular syndrome will have to be on light work and watched carefully so that these complications are minimized.
I started this site 2 years ago when my horse was being treated for Navicular disease. I’ve come to hate this disease; it robs an otherwise healthy horse of its mobility and ultimately its life. That’s what happened to my horse, Bo.
While treating Bo I did a lot of research, mostly guided by my vet, but I decided to look at everything I could find about the disease. I even researched things I wouldn’t consider doing to my horse, just to find out what the options are.
I tried a few treatments on Bo: Isoxuprene, some supplements (Equibone, Duralactin, Cetyl M), intrabursal steroid injections. The steroid injections worked the best, but lasted only 4-5 months.
After a year of steroid treatments a very common complication of Navicular Disease happened — Bo tore his Deep Digital Flexor Tendon (DDFT). This is a very common problem in Navicular horses because as the DDFT slides along the navicular bone as the horse walks the rubbing can cause little tears in the tendon, which eventually become large tears, like a run in a stocking, as my vet described it. We tried Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy on the tendon but it never healed properly and Bo eventually had to be put down.
I HATE navicular disease and I want to find a cure or way to prevent it, so I continue to do research even though my current horse does not have the disease. So I’ve decided to share everything I’ve learned and will learn in the future in the hope that it can save other horses and their owners from the pain (both physical and emotional) that it causes.
So look around the site, there is no cure here yet, but you can learn enough to be able to ask your vet intelligent questions and hopefully understand what the vet is trying to tell you.
Feel free to leave comments and questions which I will answer if I can.