Managing Equine Arthritis on a Budget

Veterinarians can keep diagnostic costs lower by using as much information from routine tests as possible.
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Managing Equine Arthritis on a Budget
When assessing the horse, the veterinarian should use easily gleaned information such as the horse’s history, conformation, joint palpation, range of motion, heat or pain upon limb flexion, and a comparison of limbs. | Photo: Stephanie L. Church/The Horse
Equine veterinary advances and technologies generally come with a hefty price tag. The economics of diagnosis especially become a concern when treating older horses for OA, which can result from years of joint wear.

“For many equine clients it is an economic fact that, while the utilization of advanced diagnostic techniques may provide the ‘gold standard’ in service and diagnostic certainty, they are too expensive,” explained Emma Jones, MA, VetMB, CertES(Orth), MRCVS, from Abbey Equine Centre, in Monmouthshire, U.K. “In the present economic climate the diagnostic work up may cost in excess of the monetary value of the horse.”

She added that many insurance companies don’t offer life coverage or don’t cover these treatments past a certain age. So she proposed that veterinarians work with owners to extract as much information as possible from routine tests before resorting to diagnostic imaging. “We’re not doing enough with the whole horse basic workup,” she said.

Jones suggested looking for basic clinical signs of OA, such as increased respiratory rate; changes in normal behavior, such as eating less; abnormal behaviors, such as shifting weight; and increased behaviors, such as lying down. When assessing the horse, the veterinarian should use easily gleaned information such as the horse’s history, conformation, joint palpation, range of motion, heat or pain upon limb flexion, and a comparison of limbs. Further, he or she should evaluate what effect exercise and ground surface have on the horse both immediately (during the lameness exam) and the following day

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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