Q. I recently bought an expensive 8-year-old hunter-jumper that was radiographed at purchase. He was an excellent junior show horse and is already proven. He vetted sound. However, I sent his X rays to a second vet for interpretation because the horse always pinned his ears over a jump. A small (early) bone spur (a sharp bony projection at the joint margin) was discovered. The veterinarian said it likely would develop ringbone in years.

My question is: can bone spurs be surgically removed, as in osteochondritis dissecans (OCD, a cartilage disorder characterized by large flaps of cartilage or loose cartilaginous bodies within a joint) cases? If not, is there something that can be done?     Thea, via e-mail


A. You raise several important issues. One is the degree of predictability that this radiographic finding ("small, early bone spur") is "likely" to develop "years" later. Perhaps a more realistic interpretation would be to describe its proximity to a joint surface and, based on this, identify it as a possible–rather than probable–future lameness risk factor.

I also assume that the conclusion that a bone spur is present is accurate. Because of the normal curvatures in the upper borders of the pastern and coffin bones, accurate placement of the X ray beam is essential to avoid radiographic artifacts, including the appearance of a "small spur." In this case, this might explain why the first doctor did not report the same finding.

You did not specify whether the spur is at the proximal interphalangea