Infectious Arthritis in Foals

November 12, 2007 (published)

Today we are going to talk about a severe problem that can occur in young foals called infectious arthritis. Infectious arthritis is an infection that involves one or more joints and Dr. Joanne Hardy from Texas A&M indicates the most common cause of joint infection is bacteria that gets in the blood stream and ends up in the joints. These infections occur commonly in foals that do not receive colostrum or first milk from the mare that contains the antibodies to fight off infection. Because of the possibility of infection in the joints, any lame foal should be examined immediately by your vet. These joint infections are extremely severe and require early diagnosis and treatment. These joints can be damaged very quickly and this damage can be permanent. So if you have a foal that shows lameness, don';t just think it may be a sprain but get it checked out, especially if there is swelling around a joint.

Treatment of these joint infections must be aggressive and can also be expensive. Antibiotic injections are required but also these joints must be flushed out with large amounts of fluids to rid them of bacteria that can damage the joint surface. Depending on the joint, flushing may be required several times with needles and even endoscopy is sometimes required to actually look inside the joint. Joint flushing almost always requires heavy sedation or anesthesia, which increases the cost of treatment. Cultures of joint fluid must be taken to determine exactly what bacterium is involved to make sure you are using the correct antibiotics. If you have a young foal with swollen joints, consult your vet immediately.

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