Equine OCD Explained

There’s a relatively common developmental disease in horses that all owners should educate themselves about – it’s called osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).

Affecting joints, the cartilage doesn’t form normally, causing the cartilage and bone underneath it to become irregular in thickness, and weaker than in normal joints. This can cause the development of cartilage and bone flaps that can either remain partially attached to the bone or break off and float around in the joint. These loose flaps and areas of abnormal cartilage and bone cause inflammation in the joint and, over time, may lead to the development of arthritis.

OCD is usually combined by a combination of several factors acting together, including:

  • Rapid growth and large body size
  • Nutrition – diets very high in energy have an imbalance in trace minerals
  • Genetics – risk of OCD may be partially inherited
  • Hormonal imbalances – insulin and thyroid hormones
  • Trauma and exercise – trauma (including routine exercise) is often involved in the formation and loosening of the OCD flap

The most common symptom of OCD is swelling in the joint of a young horse. Lameness varies with location and severity of the OCD; most horses are sound at walk but may display lameness at faster speeds or when put into work. OCDs can occur in virtually all joints, but most frequently in the hock, stifle and fetlock joints.

Increasingly, 4CYTE is being recommended as the first line of treatment for OCD. 4CYTE is a natural anti-inflammatory, and suppresses the inflammation in the joint that leads to swelling. Surgical removal of the abnormal bone and cartilage by arthroscopy may be required, depending on the severity of the condition. 4CYTE is commonly used after surgery for reducing post-operative inflammation, and maintaining long-term joint health.

“I’ve seen clinical improvements in some cases of OCD given 4CYTE without surgery that I might not otherwise have expected,”

Dr David Howes, MA Vet, MB, MACVs, MRCVs

If your horse displays symptoms of OCD, contact your vet immediately to get a joint assessment and treatment plan to prevent further damage.

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Always consult your veterinarian on the health of your animal.