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Knee Conditions in Horses

Date Published: 03/08/2005
Date Reviewed/Revised: 09/21/2015

Today I'm going to talk about common conditions that affect the horse's knee, which is correctly called the carpus. The horse's carpus is analogous to a person's wrist and is a fairly complicated joint as there are seven small bones inside the carpus that make up the joint with the radius above the joint and the cannon bone below the joint. There are actually three joints in the carpus but the two lower ones communicate as they share joint, fluid which is important to know when treating the joint. Dr. Andrew Lewis from Benton, Louisiana, indicates in Remuda magazine that chip fractures are common in the knee and can easily be removed surgically with a scope. Carpal bones can also have a slab fracture, which is more serious than a chip as it involves more than one joint and usually requires surgery to replace the fractured portion with a screw.

Probably the most common knee issue I see in my practice is arthritis due to age and trauma to the joint from hard riding. You may have seen older horses with very large and knobby knees, and most of these horses have arthritis. Some of them respond to the anti-inflammatory drug Bute but many do better by injecting the joints with some cortisone and hyaluronic acid. However, some of these horses have such severe arthritis that any medication has only a mild effect. Platelet-rich plasma and IRAP can be injected into the knee and that helps in some cases. And finally, surgery can be used to enter the joint and clean up bone chips and bone spurs along with any of these other medications.

So if your horse has a swollen knee, one of multiple possibilities can be occurring and early evaluation by your veterinarian can save time and money.

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