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Cervical osteoarthritis

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  • Cervical osteoarthritis

    My 10 year-old QH gelding was officially diagnosed with cervical osteoarthritis in his C1-C3 vertebrae this week. It appears that the tendon that attaches in that area was disrupted or ruptured at some point in the past. In addition, he has some changes and bone chips between C5-C7. The orthopedic surgeon feels the C5-C7 changes are less significant in comparison to the C1-C3. Luckily we only had to have a bone scan and standing neck xrays to confirm this diagnosis and not a myelogram.

    His symptoms include mild (audible-only) mechanical lameness in the left front and neurological deficits (1-2 out of 5) in the rear. He's off at the canter and uncomfortable at up and down transitions between trot and canter. Otherwise, he's his usual sweet self.

    We have a treatment plan that includes a bute trial to start. He may end up being on bute for the long-term, although we're going to weigh the consequences of that carefully since there are long-term side effects from bute usage.

    We are supposed to start him on cosequin and do Aquedan injections. The orthopedic surgeon is supposed to get back to me on whether or not we can do surgery to fuse the offending vertebrae, but according to the resident vet I spoke to, it's unlikely we could do that because it's C1-C3.

    Beyond jingles (because this just sucks), I'm wondering if any of you can share your experience with cervical osteoarthritis. What worked for you? What was a waste of time and money? Have any of you had your horses on a long-term bute regimen? If so, how did they tolerate it? How about cosequin and Aquedan? Anyone have a horse that underwent the surgery?

    Most of all: this is a horse that loves to work. He's not a stand around and do nothing kind of guy. I want to keep him in work (we do low-level dressage and fart around for the most part), partially for his mental health but also because he's an amazing partner. Based on your experiences, what's possible with a horse with this diagnosis? If you do have the horse in work, I'm assuming you're letting the horse be the guide for how much work is enough? Any insight you might have would be awesome.

  • #2
    I have dealt with several horses with cervical osteoarthritis. I would not do the surgery, but we had great success with ultrasound guided injections of the problem areas. The horses I dealt with were already on a Legend and Adequan program since they were high level hunters and equitation horses.


    • #3
      My horse was c5-6 (I think). I had him on high doses of vitamin e (there are threads on this) and also MSM. My vet said to keep him in work as long as he tolerated it. We were able to do light to medium hacking for 4 or 5 years before I lost him at age 15 in an unrelated incident.

      For long term use, I would use previcox rather than bute because it is better tolerated. My gelding was on this, but not daily.

      Most horses respond well to the injections, as dma mentioned. My horse did not, it actually caused a major flareup that made it much worse, and lasted several months. But I really think this was a fluke, none of the vets at New Bolton had ever seen anything like it before. If I had another horse with this issue I would not be afraid to try the injections. (As a matter of fact, I see that New Bolton has a lecture on neurological issues in horses next month, and I want to go to see if they show the video they took of Cal).

      Best of luck. I'm sure this is a blow but hopefully it can be managed.


      • #4
        Ditto the above. My gelding palpates and Chiros with a problem, and has uneven muscle development at start of neck, but X-rays show minor changes. My vet wants to do an ultrasound guided injection also, based on horse's discomfort upon flexing.

        I would never, never consider any fusing surgery almost anywhere. There are better things out there.

        This gelding also had arthritis in his rear withers area, and was slightly dragging a rear toe. Shockwave helped that dramatically.
        Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


        • Original Poster

          Thanks guys. I really appreciate the input, and it's nice to hear that horses with this diagnosis can continue to live productive lives. I honestly think it would kill my guy if he didn't have some kind of job. In fact, it took us a while to figure out what the heck was going on because he would very cheerfully work through the pain/discomfort, so at first I just thought it was muscle soreness from more strenuous work.

          Luckily I'm leasing him out for several months to a wonderful woman who, after she got him in better condition, contacted me and said "something's not quite right, we need to call the vet." Doubly lucky, I have a vet who isn't afraid to say "lameness isn't my specialty, let's send him to Cornell University vet hospital and get an answer as soon as possible because it will save you money in the long run." And in a final dash of luck, he happens to be living about an hour and a half away from a great teaching veterinary hospital. Even though it's a not great diagnosis, I'm trying to be grateful that it's not life-ending, that he got great care from his doctors, that he's being leased by someone who cares deeply and with intelligence, and that we were able to find a diagnosis so quickly. You gotta stay grateful, right?

          I feel terrible that I didn't see it right away, but it was tricky because he was never lame on one limb. It was just an off-ness that started in late September/early October I couldn't quite put my finger on--it wasn't anything that made you stop and say "holy lameness," but it was there, if you know what I mean.
          Last edited by gettingbettereveryday; Jan. 27, 2011, 03:53 PM. Reason: Emoticon mix-up.