Degenerative Joint Disease.. info?

Discussion in 'Horse Health' started by shaiarabs, Jan 7, 2018.

  1. shaiarabs

    shaiarabs Senior Member

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    Hi all, its been a while.

    Pure Arabian mare, 20 at the end of this year. Issue is in the hind legs fetlocks are at 90% angle instead of a lovely 45% angle they used to have. Has been a slow and over the last 5 years happening. Swelling on one fetlock and one hock, no lameness, moving well at walk and trot, can canter but rarely does.

    Ok, I know of the disease and have read up plenty, but need to know when to let go. Hoping that someone here will have some first hand experience with it.

    So my question is what am I looking for when its time to let my mare go? Will there be consistent lameness? Do the fetlocks drop to the floor? Will she suddenly be unable to get up?

    I'm and early rather than later with pts, but we are not even close yet and want to be prepared so that I will know it when I see it, I will be able to get it done straight away.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    'Degenerative joint disease' is a very general term for 'osteoarthritis'(what most people call 'arthritis'. Horse folk typically have a name for each different location of the leg, like 'ringbone' for pasterns and 'spavin' for hocks.

    Most horses have some degree of arthritis by age 20, and it would be called 'normal wear and tear' or 'changes typical for his age.'

    Most of them cope with it quite well, too. They don't suffer and there is generally no need for euthanasia. Their work may need to be slightly reduced, but they go on being useful, just at a lighter level of work.

    Normally the horse's hind pasterns are at an angle of about 55 degrees. 45 degrees would be quite a low angle for hind pasterns to start out at - not impossible, but unusual. Was that measured with a protractor placed on the sole of the foot? Can you post some photos?

    If the horse's hind pasterns change with age, usually they decrease in angle(become more sloped). That's because the 'suspensory' system of the leg either just ages, or repeatedly gets injured (or the horse has a disease, DSLD, that causes its tendons and ligaments to deteriorate).

    If the horse's hind pasterns are becoming more and more upright, that wouldn't necessarily be due to arthritis, but due to the tendons and ligaments of the legs. That needs to be determined by a vet. It would be unusual for a horse's hind pasterns to become more upright as it aged due to arthritis(possible with extremely advanced ringbone, though ringbone is commoner in the front legs - but this is just not the norm, and generally would not change from 45 to 90 degrees even so).

    And if the horse has swelling in one fetlock and one hock, the horse probably has damage to those joints of some type (either just a sprain or strain, or actual joint changes), and needs to be seen by a vet and treated(mild strains are often treated without seeking a vet, and may be successful if the horse gets appropriate treatment). The lameness caused is often very subtle, so it might not be noticed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2018
  3. shaiarabs

    shaiarabs Senior Member

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    Thanks slc. I probably didnt explain it to well. Its definately the DSLD the fetlocks have sunk and are horizontal to the ground.

    She isnt stiff. Isnt upright.

    She is straighter than she should be through the hock due to the angle of the pasterns.

    I know there is nothing to be done about it. Just need to be clear on if and when its time.
     
  4. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    It isn't definite that it's DSLD. That can only be determined by a veterinary diagnosis.

    'When it's time?' Most horses with DSLD worsen over time and need to be put down. But when it's wear and tear, most of those horses are quite comfortable and do not need to be euthanized. They just need their work adjusted to a more appropriate level.

    The sinking fetlocks very, very commonly occurs without DSLD, simply due to wear and tear over the years. One of my horses was injured before I got him and had one fetlock 'started on the way down.' That horse is almost 20 and there has been no significant change to that for 10 years...plus...the horse is not at all uncomfortable and euthanasia is not warranted.

    DSLD often will cause a very 'typical' look, with the hocks getting straighter and straighter ('post legged') over the years, and the fetlocks becoming more and more sunk down toward the ground. DSLD usually affects both hind legs but one will be worse than the other, quite often.

    DSLD affects the whole body, it's just that it's more obvious in the hind legs.

    If it's not DSLD, but is wear and tear, I've also seen, one leg may be more 'sunk' than the other. Or both hind fetlocks can sink the same amount.

    But to emphasize again, if it's wear and tear there is generally zero reason to euthanize the horse.
     
  5. slc

    slc Senior Member

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  6. palogal

    palogal Senior Member

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    First of all, so sorry....
    In terms of "when", look at in her eyes. At what point is she too uncomfortable to be asked to function? At one point are you giving her so much pain killer it's giving her ulcers? Does she get up and move or is she down all the time? With this or any other disease, have firm conversation with yourself about what is best for HER. Some horses will give up and stop eating. That's a tell tale sign they are done. Your vet can help you gauge her pain as well. In short, Mama knows best, you will know when it's time, you cannot be afraid to admin it.
     
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  7. Faster Horses

    Faster Horses Senior Member

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    Speaking entirely from osetoarthritis experience here, my horse did not have DSLD.

    I still rode, occasionally, close to the end of his life. We kept it to a walk and short, just enough to get out and see the world.

    Decided it was his time when other things started to go wrong. Despite all the best care, he didn't hold weight well. He started to go blind. He slightly lost that pep and energy that was common for him.

    Each issue seperate, he was fine. All issues together, it was his time. The vet agreed. We let him have another week or two (unseasonably warm January at the time) then put him down before the cold came back.

    There's no easy answer, especially with a disease that gets progressively worse. Keep a close eye. Make a journal, take pictures, and review them from time to time.

    Good luck.
     
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  8. CJ

    CJ Senior Member

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    My free horse had something like DSLD, except it wasnt degenerative. He had what I called "the conformation of a cow" *sorry @Dona Worry.. Below hes pictured @ age 8. He stayed pretty much the same all his life, improved enough to not leave fetlock prints in the dirt. He actually was rideable without being unsound or sore. The only time I remember him getting sore from a ride was when he slipped in a muddy truck track and had to churn a lil with his hind end to get traction out of the puddle/mud. He needed a lil comfort-bute the day or so after. We restricted his weight carrying, running (too hard) and jumping (none!) and he stayed sound. The caulked shoes and degreed pads he had on when I got him were taken off, pads then shoes, and he was barefoot the most and rest of the time with me.
    When he got to be @20 I pretty much only let the small teen kids ride him, for weight reasons. I might jump on him bareback briefly as I was a lil over 100 lbs.We have video from then of my teen cousin and a friend using him & Raps in a historical re-creation report they had to do, both ridden and cantering, comfortably. When he was @22 his Knee strength seemed really suspect, so the kids werent allowed to ride him anymore either. He died @age 25, not on joint meds and never had his hocks or joints injected Ever.
    Whether he had DSLD or just all the earmark in a compilation of lousy conformation, he was never in such discomfort that it warranted or mandated PTS. He only had some trouble getting up at the very end, days before he died. At that point I was resolved to call the vet for the last time, had vet out once 1st time he went down, and Shen passed on his own overnight shortly after.
    So its scary looking and restrictive of safe use, for the health and welfare of horse and rider, but not and automatic PTS issue. If horse doesnt have to "earn its keep" with frequent, active, demanding use, it can live long and comfortably with light use, and if allowed to just weed whack in its twilight term.
    [​IMG]
     
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  9. shaiarabs

    shaiarabs Senior Member

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    Thanks CJ that was the sort of thing I was after. Her back legs look exactly like that horizontal to the ground, she is unbroken due to an accident as a 5 month old so work isnt an issue, she is a mare who has had systemic issues during her entire life, so we have other issues as well as this one to take into account as well. I really needed to hear how it might impact at the other end, to know that it probably wont is great, it means I can focus on her other issues.

    Thank you everyone!

     
  10. mymarespet

    mymarespet Senior Member+

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    Shaiarabs, This is certainly one of the hardest calls a person has to make.... I also have a mare with DSLD/ESPA, so I have thought about this question quite a bit.
    I have been with an animal that in discomfort, had lost body condition and didn't want to move.....you know it when you see it, (not mine-called to help confirm decision-moral support)
    I also have a certain amount of arthritis and I don't want to be put down yet! What I am saying is as long as my mare is able to maintain her weight, gets around, up and down without struggling, has an appetite (and attitude) I will give her her pain meds and enjoy spending time with her.
     
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