Action Point: Understand the difference between observations, diagnostics, clinical signs & findings, and diagnoses & treatments. Dr. Doug Thal, DVM presents a helpful overview of these terms on his Horse Side Vet Guide website, which can also be downloaded as a phone app.
Rationale: While it isn’t imperative that a horse owner has complete knowledge of medical terminology, the ability to effectively communicate with and comprehend what the veterinarian is saying, and ask educated questions is key in being an effective advocate for horse health.
Knowing which observations warrant a call to the veterinarian is crucial. The list of My Observations on the website presents an extensive list of medical and behavioural observations, indicating which ones require veterinary attention with a simple click on said observation. The phone app will be a handy tool for everyone involved with caring for the horses.
The sections on Vet Diagnostics and Vet Diagnoses provide comprehensive lists of all of the respective tools and conditions, with some descriptions available for owners, and others only accessible by veterinarians.
Action Point: Determine which lameness conditions each horse is most at risk for.
Rationale: According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners document Understanding Lameness by Doug Thal, DVM, some horses are more susceptible to lameness based on breed, type, conformation, and discipline. Knowing what these specific conditions are and their signs will increase one’s ability to detect the signs and symptoms of lameness early.
As outlined in the article Conformation in Horses by Christina S. Cable, DVM, common conformation faults that can indicate a horse’s predisposition to lameness include:
- toed-in (pigeon toed)
- toed-out (splay footed)
- carpal valgus (lateral deviation of the carpus – knock knees)
- carpal varus (medial deviation of the carpus – bow legs)
- palmar deviation of the knee (calf knee)
- base narrow (stands close)
- base wide (stands wide)
- offset knees (bench knees)
- straight hocks (post legged)
- large angulation of the hock (sickle hocks)
Action Point: Have everyone involved with the day-to-day care of the horses review Equine Guelph’s Lameness Lab Healthcare Tool.
Rationale: Understanding the possible causes and signs of lameness is important for everyone who is involved with the care of the horses. Early detection and diagnosis are imperative in any lameness case. If left untreated, not only will resolving the issue potentially become more costly and time-consuming but most importantly, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further damage and suffering for the horse.