Vet case study: coping with an arthritic knee [H&H VIP]

  • The horse

    Floydd, a 15.2hh 15-year-old part-bred TB had just started British Eventing, doing BE90 classes with his owner, Millie.

    Floydd’s love for eventing encouraged Millie to take a year out before starting university to concentrate on riding him and experiencing as many events as possible.

    The history

    In April, the day after Floydd’s third event, he went very lame on his offside fore leg. Floydd had never been lame before.

    Vet Stewart Mechie advised Millie to give him field rest and put him on the walker, and, if it passed, bring him back into work. The lameness went away, but returned the day before their next event.

    Worried about Floyyd and disappointed about missing the event, she asked Stewart to investigate the problem further.

    Diagnosis and treatment

    To find out exactly where the problem was coming from, nerve and joint blocking was used. This involves using local anaesthetic to help isolate the area of lameness by numbing different regions until the lameness reduces or disappears.

    It allows the vet to focus expensive imaging tests in the affected area. In Floydd’s case, it found that the problem was in his right knee.

    Stewart then x-rayed the knee and came to the conclusion that Floydd was suffering from arthritic changes to the knee joint. Floydd was given a cortisone and sodium hyaluronate injection into the joint as an anti-inflamatory and joint lubricant.

    The injections usually start to work straight away and can give relief from symptoms for up to three months.

    At this point, it was predicted that Floydd may need further injections during his working life.

    The outcome

    For both Stewart and Millie, the outcome was a surprise. At the time of writing (January 2014), Floydd hasn’t needed another injection since.

    Three days after the injection Millie was able to start walking Floydd. Stewart advised to gradually build up to trot and eventually canter.

    For almost a year now Floydd has been sound and competing successfully in dressage. He has even been hunting. Stewart’s prediction was that Floyyd probably wouldn’t be able to event again.

    Millie agrees, and would rather keep Floyyd fit and healthy than risk his soundness by jumping.

    In January 2014 Millie and Floydd did their first two novice dressage competitions and came second and third. “Now I love doing dressage,” said Millie. “I’m finding it more fun now that we’re working at a higher level.”

    Ongoing management

    Millie believes that Floydd’s current diet has strongly influenced his remission.

    She decided to add cod liver oil and cider apple vinegar into his feed in the hope that this will help keep his joints healthy.

    She has also changed his lifestyle, in line with veterinary advice. Floydd now lives out 24/7 to keep him on the move and prevent him from going stiff.

    The vets have said, due to his great recovery, Millie could give jumping a go. However so far, Millie has decided not to: “It would be quite selfish of me to jump a course of jumps when that could potentially hurt him.”

    The future

    Millie hopes to continue their dressage success. But she is still in two minds about resuming jumping.

    She hopes that Floydd’s health will continue to flourish. She said: “Stewart and the vets at Minster Equine were fabulous. They were really helpful all the way through – even with all of my daft questions!

    “It’s thanks to Stewart’s advice and patience that Floydd is sound now,” she adds.

    Millie hopes that Floyyd’s success will help other owners realise that the diagnosis of arthritis certainly doesn’t mean it’s the end. Potentially it could be a new beginning!

    The costs

    £900-£1000. Including check ups and the nerve blocks etc.


    Stirk and Minster Equine Vet’s Ripon
    01765 690 245