A team of researchers recently evaluated a possible treatment for equine bone fragility disorder (BFD) with positive results, giving owners of horses affected by this currently incurable disease a glimmer of hope.

Equine BFD, also known as bone fragility syndrome, has only been identified in horses residing in northern coastal California and has a similar geographic distribution to pulmonary silicosis (a respiratory disease caused by inhaling certain types of silicate dust found in some geographic regions). According to lead researcher Scott A. Katzman, DVM, Dipl. ACVS-LA, an equine surgeon at Cleary Lake Veterinary Hospital in Prior Lake, Minn., BFD is characterized by clinical signs including:

  • Generalized stiffness;
  • Exercise intolerance;
  • Intermittent to severe lameness, depending on disease severity;
  • Lordosis (swayback);
  • Lateral scapulae bowing;
  • Weight loss; and
  • Reduced range of motion in the cervical spine.

The cause of the disease remains unknown.

"Historically, treatment for this BFD has been largely symptomatic, relying on systemic administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids, exercise restriction, and relocation to a different geographic region," Katzman said. "Treatment has been generally unrewarding, with only transient improvement of clinical signs."

To that end, Katzman and colleagues elected to test the benefit of using zoledronate–a nitrogen-containing bisphosphonate used to prevent bone resorption in humans–on horses with BFD. Katzman explained that the authors c