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Lameness with no obvious cause...When is enough enough?

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  • Lameness with no obvious cause...When is enough enough?

    I have a 14 year old TB gelding who has been retired for seven years due to NQRness in the right hind. He was not rideably sound, but was definitely pasture sound.

    Now, he has something new going on. The first hint was 6 weeks ago when he had his feet trimmed last, and couldn't hold up the right hind for the trimmer. There was something amiss in the left hind such that he didn't want to bear weight on it. She did some massage and got him to the point where she could work on the RH. He wasn't visibly lame, so I decided to keep an eye on him and see if maybe he just tweaked something and would be fine after a few days. He seemed OK for a while... until about 10 days ago, when he started resting that left hind basically all the time, and in awkward ways, like setting the toe down well forward under his belly. He often looks very sound at the walk still, but has trouble going up and down the hill in the pasture and can't move too quick when the other more dominant horses get after him.

    I did have my go-to vet check him out last week, and he couldn't find a specific problem--no heat, swelling, nothing in the hoof, etc. He recommended our friendly local bodyworker/massage therapist. She came out last night and spent an hour going over every inch, and although there was a lot of tightness here and there, she didn't find anything in the muscles that would indicate the level of lameness we're seeing. I do have a call in to a second vet and am waiting on a call back.

    I just... Sigh. He is clearly NOT pasture sound right now. He's been getting a gram of bute 2x/day for over a week and still can't trot. I'm going to need to section off the paddock so the other horses can't chase him, which is fine, but what about when the grass comes in and they go out to pasture?

    He's also blind in one eye. So now he's half blind, kind of off on the right hind, and downright lame on the left. Do you see where I'm going with this? I hate to see him in pain and unable to play and run around. But his attitude is good. I think he is enjoying all the extra attention he's been getting. I've never had to make that call before. How much time would you give a horse like this to "get better" if the vets can't find anything specific wrong?

  • #2
    I would expect a competent lameness vet to be able to find the area of the problem when he is that lame. Abscess? You could at least try blocking from the hock down to see if it is in the leg, or if it could be up higher, like a hip fracture.


    • #3
      How are the hind fetlocks looking / feeling? I ask because you may be seeing the result of DSLD / ESPA manifesting slowly over time. Is he significantly, and bi-laterally, lamer on both hinds with a fetlock flexion test?


      • Original Poster

        Ugghhhhhh I am shaking. UrbanHennery, you are correct. The second vet (better with lameness for sure) just came out and spent about an hour here. George's right fetlock has been dropped for years (but relatively painlessly--although that is why he's unrideable) and it seems that now the left one is breaking down as well. Vet says he is in significant pain (clearly) and it will not get better, only worse, of course. He gave me Previcox for the short term, but his advice is euthanasia. I said "What, today??" and he said, "That's up to you." I pressed him for advice on a timeline (as I am not emotionally prepared for today!) and he said by this fall for sure. I'd like to let him stay long enough to eat some grass again before he goes, but that's a good six weeks off yet, so it depends on how he does on the Previcox I guess.

        This hurts my heart, but honestly, I knew it was coming.


        • #5
          I am very sorry for you and your guy. There's a Yahoo group for DSLD with some very helpful management recommendations based on nutritional guidance from Dr. Eleanor Kellon. You might look there for some assistance and support.

          I have a 19 year old TB who was diagnosed with DSLD two years ago, but who is currently pasture sound.

          Sending jingles.


          • #6
            DSLD is a hard Dx to deal with. For now, if the Previcox keeps him comfortable, enjoy the spring. Give yourself some time, and perhaps as the heat of summer comes, or goes, you will be better able to deal with it.

            Many jingles.
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


            • #7
              Originally posted by JCS View Post
              Vet says he is in significant pain (clearly) and it will not get better, only worse, of course.
              If it was me, I wouldn't wait too long. It isn't going to get any easier for you I would give it a week, spoil the crap out of him, and then let him go. Animals can't rationalize the pain and therefore can't "enjoy" their last days... pain = panic & fear, period. The fresh grass won't mean anything to him. I like to think of it this way: it hurts US a whole lot to let them go sooner rather than later, but it physically hurts THEM the longer we keep them around because we don't feel ready. So let him go sooner and for the rest of your life you can know that you took on some pain for his benefit.

              I'm SO sorry about your guy
              "Sometimes the fear won't go away... so you just have to do it afraid."

              Trolls be trollin'! -DH


              • Original Poster

                Thank you CatPS. I believe you are right. I am going to give the Previcox a few days to see how he does on it, but I'm not super hopeful that it will make a big difference. There's a lot of mud season to get through before grass season--plus, by then he may not be able to hobble out to the pasture.

                I'll have my husband buy some second-crop when he picks up hay tomorrow.

                I knew this would happen sooner or later, I just didn't expect it to be so soon. He's my first horse, and he's been with me for ten years.


                • #9
                  Wow, I just googled this condition. I think my older TB may have this. Unexplainable lameness and now his hind fetlocks are dropping. Wow, I guess that is why we come on here and read about conditions. This explains a lot for me.

                  JCS I am so sorry. My guy will be 21 in May, I cannot imagine having such a young horse with this condition. Hugs...Sometimes I wonder why we attach ourselves to these overgrown lap dogs.