Dr. Dunlap has extensive experience in lameness and sports medicine. She is not only a veterinarian but has been riding and competing in a variety of sport horse disciplines for over 25 years. She is also a breeder of sport horses. Lameness has always been of special interest to Dr. Dunlap. One of the reasons she chose Tufts University for vet school was because of the unique sports medicine program offered at Tufts. Doing an internship and a surgical residency following graduation allowed her to gain advanced training in all aspects of lameness from the exam to specialized diagnostics such as nuclear scintigraphy (bone scan) to arthroscopic surgery.
We are very pleased to provide high quality lameness workups here at Dunlap Equine Services. With our powerful digital radiography equipment we can image cervical vertebrae, shoulders and other large areas that cannot be viewed readily with standard small portable systems. Our ultrasound unit allows us to readily image soft tissue injuries and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Cutting edge treatment options are also offered including joint injections, platelet rich plasma (PRP), stem cell therapy and therapeutic laser.
Facts about Lameness
1) What is lameness?
It's any issue that is causing your horse to move differently than he normally would. Each limb should hit the ground with the same force and each forelimb should cover the same amount of ground as the other forelimb and this goes for each hindlimb as well. Lameness can be as subtle as your horse just doesn't feel right to as obvious as the inability to bear any weight on a limb.
2) There are two types of lameness.
One is mechanical-the loss of the ability to move the leg normally due to some restriction. Examples of this include scar tissue causing loss of range of motion in a joint or a breakdown of the support structures such as a complete suspensory apparatus breakdown in which the fetlock is on the ground. The other type is due to pain. This is by far the most common type but we can see combinations of the two-a lameness which is due to both mechanical restriction and pain.
3) A lameness exam will determine where exactly your horse is having a problem. If horses could speak life would be much simpler but there's only one Mr. Ed and he's in Hollywood so for the rest of us we have to rely on the lameness exam. A good history is paramount. This gives us a lot of information about what kind of work your horse has been doing, what kind of environment he's been in and if there's been any "red flag" sort of situations such as a kick by another horse, a fall, working in very deep footing or other unusual event. It's important for us to know if your horse has had any lameness issues in the past. Sometimes arthritis or an old soft tissue (tendon or ligament) injury can come back to haunt us. Running hands over your horse can give us a lot of information as well, detecting lumps, bumps, and painful areas. From there the decision is made to move straight to diagnostics (x-ray/ultrasound) if the lameness is severe and moving your horse could be dangerous or to proceed with further testing. The hooftesters are helpful in detecting any superficial injury/pain in the outer parts of the hoof-wall, laminae, sole, frog and digital cushion.
Watching your horse move at a walk, trot and canter will help determine the issue as well. We watch on the straightaway and usually in a circle as circling can make some lameness issues more obvious such as foot lameness. From there flexion tests can be done to put mild pressure on the joints and test the response once your horse is jogged off after flexion. Blocks such as you might get at the dentist are then used to localize the lameness to a certain area. If a block is put in and your horse is sound afterwards, we know the lameness is localized to that specific area. At this point diagnostics are then performed if needed. Care and treatment recommendations can then be discussed.
4) What is a lameness emergency?
If your horse cannot put any weight on his leg. If your horse's leg looks abnormal-funny angle or is moving it oddly, appearing to have little control over it. If there is a laceration or wound associated with the lameness. If your horse is even suspected to have been kicked by another horse-this can be enough force to cause a fracture-keep in mind a horse can still walk with some fractures so this is NOT always a good indication to go by. A puncture wound to the leg-horses have minimal soft tissue coverage over their lower legs so a puncture wound can more easily enter a joint or tendon sheath in the lower limb region.