View Full Version : Osteochondritis or OCD

Horsemad NZer (Guest)
20-04-02, 04:45 AM
I have a 3yo mare with recently diagnosed OCD. She has been showing signs of lameness since a 2yo, and upon being started and ridden from September 2001 until January 2002, she came up chronically lame on a hack in February 2002. Vet #1 diagnosed a stifle lock (he couldn't xray as his xray machine wasn't powerful enough for a stifle area), and recommended turnout for 6 months (over our winter period).

We had a cold blast for 3 days about 2 weeks ago and the horse "seized up", not wanting to move, causing great alarm, so I took the horse on recommendation by Vet #1 to another Vet Clinic (Vet #2) who had more powerful xray machines to xray stifle area. Vet #2 xrayed, and we found OCD dessicans (cartilidge chips), about a dozen in each stifle area, floating, bigger than fingernails. Vet #2 said that an arthoscopy operation would give at least 80% recovery rate - I am satisfied with this.

Vet #1 rung me the next morning after talking to Vet #2. He said there was only one thing to do, and that was to put the horse down as the cost (approx $2000-$3000 quoted by Vet #2) would be better used towards buying another horse that is sound.

NO WAY!!!!!

So I confirmed the quote with Vet #2 - it changes every time. $1000 per leg (it is both legs) one minute, $1500 starting price next quote, etc etc. And a surgeon that has to fly to Christchurch from Invercargill - and I am sure I am paying extra for this.

So I rung Vet #3 from a reputable Equine Clinic here in Christchurch - set quote of $1500 plus GST, both legs. He says he operates on many of these per year, and at least 80% success rate, and to his knowledge all are rideable upon recovery.

SOOooooo I guess I am wanting anyone who has had experience with OCD and operations to come forward and tell me their experience. I am not by any means rich, I have just bought a house and have no ready cash available, so this decision is a bit harder to make because I bred this horse and love her dearly - her nature and movement is brilliant (she is s/bred x t/bred), the only problem she has is her OCD.

Good AND Bad experiences please!

Been there!! (Guest)
20-04-02, 08:09 AM
I'm glad you're going ahead with the operation. I too had a filly with REALLY bad OCD. I bred her myself and at 6 months she was showing signs of lameness.

She had cartlige removed from both the fetlock and stifle (I've kept the remains in a test tube for sentimental reasons. - HA HA!) Do make sure the vets get to ALL the problem areas. Even though I used a very good vet. For the first operation they only fixed the problem in the foreleg. So a SECOND operation was neccessary to remove from the stifle.

She was then boxed for 1 month - on a very basic diet WITH SHARK CARTLIDGE. This made a HUGE difference to her successful recovery. The longer you can afford to keep her on that (and keep the feed very basic eg - oats,chaff -not too much lucerne),the better her long term propects are. Do be patient with her recovery. (My girl Warmblood girl was sound, then lame on and off for over 18 months until she came good.) She is now 2.5 years and looking good. In another 12 months I will try her under saddle and see how she goes (for dressage). If there looks to be any problem down the track (although unlikely), I'll have a very well bred filly for breeding. I will be careful choosing a stallion for her though as there has been some talk on OCD being heriditary (Zangershiede Stud Studies,Belgium). I tend to agree with their conclusions. Her dam has produced SENSATIONAL youngsters to other sires also - but I would simply not put her back to my fillies' sire because the understanding is that BOTH dam AND sire must be CARRIERS of this OCD gene to influence (I stand corrected here) the OCD to occur. Although it's rare (2 carriers) resulting in OCD, it does happen. There has been talk of it being feed related. This MAY contribute to the problem (due to hyper-sensitivity to say, high protein), it is only a contributing factor)

GOOD LUCK I wish you a successful outcome. (LOVE your kind heart!)

Been there done that. (Guest)
20-04-02, 09:49 AM
I've got a gelding in my paddock recovering from OCD.

He was never lame though he came up with a Bog Spavin in his near side hind hock joint. It didn't go down so the vet flexion tested him and he was lame. The first vet was going to play a wait and see game but the partner said no we'll x-ray, the horse is too valuable. Xrays found one chip floating in the swollen leg and another chipped but not away from the bone in the other leg that showed no symptons.

The specialist looked at the xrays and gave me a very good prognosis. When they give this prognosis it is based on what you want to do with the horse - so be sure they have asked you that. One prognosis may differ from another if you want to do dressage or just have a riding horse. Mine is very good as a dressage horse....but not FEI dressage!

I find your third quote exceptionally cheap. I think the first quote of $1,000 per leg is more within range. You have hospitalisation and drugs on top of that also. We had both hocks operated on and all up it cost us $2,700. We had to confine him for two months with walking exercise the second month. Three months after they will flexion test him and see if we are in the clear. He's as sound as a bell now with two months to go. I was told (as he is a good doer) to keep the food down to hay only. Definately NO OATS!)

I was also told by the specialist that no one really knows why some get it and some don't - i've fed carefully since he was born. Some say fast growing horses are prone to it but the specialist said nothing is written in stone. I would think the success rate you have been given is going on just having a horse to ride. I don't think it would be on having a FEI dressage horse. I also kept my bone chips in a bottle - i was also fortunate enough to have my vet arrange to attend the operation with the specialist. The vet said that the success rate is much higher in operations on the hock joint than anywhere else.

It's interesting because the specialist also told me that once they have OCD in one area the chances of it being anywhere else aren't great. So to have it in two places is damn unlucky. I have my attentive vets to thank for catching it so early. I don't think i'd have liked to let it advance as far as yours has.

One thing i was told by my vets and the specialist was that if he was a she i shouldn't be breeding from it.

Good luck with your decision and operation. The next few months will not be easy..................

One final word of warning. Four weeks ago i started walking exercise. Three weeks ago he kicked me in the head. This is the quietest horse i have ever seen!!! He got too full of himself being young and confined and got a fright and took off kicking out as he did....so please if you go ahead be extra careful handling your horse!!

Carly from ChCh (Guest)
23-04-02, 04:30 AM
Thanks to both replies - I wish I had detected the OCD earlier, but the surgeon assures me that all the damage should be done by now, no more cartlidge should break away, and because of this it makes his job easier to find it all thru arthroscopy as they are large and established.

Thanks for the pre-warning on hospitalisation and drugs - I am under the assumption that she will come home within 24 hours after the op and will need minimal drugs as the operation is arthroscopy. But that is something to remember and not get a fright at if it happens to appear on the account! The vet did quote "All up" so I hope he meants drugs and all.

I believe I got such a good quote as I mentioned I was going to his competitor and was shopping round for a good price as well as a good qualified surgeon. Incidentally, both surgeons are equally as qualified, and the one I am using is more highly used and known here in Canterbury.

I will post again to let you know the outcome, hopefully it will be done in 2 weeks time - I want to pay 1/2 upfront of course!

My consolation is, as the first reply seemed to agree, that if all else fails I will have a horse who is 80% improved, but it seems to be an unknown factor whether or not to breed as could be hereditary as pointed out by the second reply.

I only want to hack and do basic dressage just for fun, the vets know this too and said that would be fine.


Been there done that.... (Guest)
23-04-02, 06:31 AM
Good luck with the Op Carly. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you. My friend just posted me a great article on OCD the details are: -

When Joints Fail: Osteochondrosis - By Les Sellnow – October 1999
This article appeared in the magazine ”The Horse” Article #385


Very worth a read!!!!

Let us know how you go!

HorseMad NZer/Carly (Guest)
24-04-02, 01:58 AM
Thanks.... I will let you know! Might be another few weeks yet though. As for the article - a very good one. I think I have read everything there is to read on the Net, but is it great to receive "real life" experiences thru sites like this. No one in NZ has really heard of it, despite it being very common according to the articles I read (American articles).

breeder (Guest)
07-05-02, 03:30 AM
You should never breed from a horse with ocd..its heriditory and its not worth going through the pain of breeding a horse that may need an operation in the future its unfair to the foal and the new owner.

To breeder from another one! (Guest)
08-05-02, 08:09 AM
No one has yet come up with concrete evidence.
You never know if your going to end up with an OCD case even if your mare has never had OCD - it happens!

HorseMad NZer (Guest)
10-05-02, 01:41 AM
To the "Breeder" comments...

My mare went into the vets yesterday, and surgery is today at 1pm. I was asked whether it had been previously diagnosed by the other vet as caused through "hereditary" or "diet". I am convinced it is diet-related, too much protein, due to the feeding regime our grazing does. From weaning, they are strip-grazed on fresh lucerne every winter!!!

I have spoken to the stud that stood the sire of my mare, and he only stood this stallion for a few seasons (the stallion was 15 years old when he had him, and left him when he was 18). The stud owner said that the stallion had no prior progeny with OCD, and this has been confirmed by other studs who have had him.

It is possible it has been bred through from the dam - but the vets today seem convinced it is through diet, not hereditary. Nonetheless, if I decide to breed from this mare, I will be taking a "gifted" service, or a very cheap one, to see the outcome (I know some breeders in NZ so can sometimes be offered a free service). But at this stage, I do not want to breed from her, just have some fun and see what happens. She would have to stay sound for quite a number of years (she is 3, and I wouldn't consider breeding for at least 5 years) to prove she is OCD-free and not unsound.

If you search through www.google.com, you will find many articles that point to OCD either being dietary, hereditary, or trauma related. You will get different opinions from different authors on the subject, and ALL are worth reading and taking into consideration.

HorseMad NZer (Guest)
10-05-02, 01:43 AM
And in hindsight, any horse I bred from this mare I would intend to keep, and not sell on - if I did happen to sell it on, I would make sure the intended purchaser had a full history of the mare's OCD problem as I believe that is fair trade. Any signs of OCD would be apparent by the time the horse has been ridden for a few months anyway according to articles I have read.

HorseMad NZer (Guest)
10-05-02, 01:44 AM
>No one has yet come up
>with concrete evidence.
>You never know if your going
>to end up with an
>OCD case even if your
>mare has never had OCD
>- it happens!

In reply to the above comment, neither sire or dam of my horse have a history of OCD to anyone's knowledge.

Been there done that too (Guest)
10-05-02, 03:02 AM
Sorry Carly that was my comment to breeder. We've bred several young horses and this is our very first case of OCD. What i'd meant to say that there is no proof it's hereditary - there is also no proof it's dietary. Our youngsters are all fed the same feed and we've only had the one case ever.

The dam or sire have no history of OCD either - so back to the breeders comment - you can do everything to avoid it and still get it no matter what.

Sounds like you have a good plan Carly. Please let us know how the surgery goes. :-)

HorseMad NZer/Carly (Guest)
11-05-02, 01:31 AM

The mare was 2.5 hours in surgery, and the dessicans were not able to be removed via arthroscopy once they got in, so they had to abandon that and go for open surgery. The surgeon removed 7 dessicans, one is smaller than a small fingernail, the largest being bigger than your thumbtip (approx 1.5cm in diameter). Most of them were very large. The surgeon says it is the worse case of stifle OCD he has ever seen.

The chances of her becoming a rideable horse, including an athlete, are very good - the surgeon is confident the surgery was successful. Even though the dessicans were big and caused surgery to be longer than intended, they are removed more easily because of their size.

One chip slipped away and couldn't be reached. He is hopeful that it will stay lodged somewhere away from the joint and never cause a problem. If it does, it will be easy to remove as it will only cause a problem once in the joint and will be easily accessible.

We were worried about her recovery as she is a big muscled horse, but she stood up within 15 mins and nickered to me as I called her name. She wobbled back to her box, and on "auto pilot" began to demolish a lovely big biscuit of lucerne, and drunk a lot of water. This was between 6-7pm last night.

I went back at 9.30pm with a friend, she seemed very dozy, was lying down and drifted in and out of sleeping. I went back at 11pm equipped with sleeping bag and lay by her until 3am - that is when she got up and had more to eat and drink, seemed quite perky. From 11pm-3am she lay flat out in the box with her head in my lap and I stroked her - she seemed pleased to have me there.

It is a joyous feeling when you breed a horse and you can aid its recovery like this - even though I am very tired today I have warm fuzzies. I have a wee jar of dessicans on my desk here at work and I am still in shock and awe that they could have caused so many problems for my mare.

The day we manage to ride into a show ring or into a dressage test will be an amazing day for me after having prior bleak diagnoses, but merely knowing she is fine now and in a lot less pain is enough for now. We have a lot of work ahead, 20 weeks of recovery, and of course her getting used to a rider again. I guess I will just hack in straight lines in summer and enjoy her which is why she was bred - to be rideable for fun above all else, not just for competition.

We are in early days right now, but everything is looking good for a good positive recovery.

HorseMad NZer/Carly (Guest)
11-05-02, 01:35 AM
In response to some comments above about OCD being hereditary, in my mare's case it was caused through development - veterinary confirmed. She is only 16.1hh, but a lot of bone and muscle, very solid horse, and she always looked a year or so older than she is from about 1 year old. Basically, her bones grew too fast for the ligaments to keep up.

Going over what I have fed her over time and how much, the vet is confident I haven't caused this through over-feeding or too much of protein etc.

But I do urge anyone who has young horses to watch their diet intake and stay a bit cautious of the pre-mixed feed ratios - they can be a bit rich, and like people, different horses need more of something than others.

Been There (Guest)
11-05-02, 04:40 AM
Hi Carly,

So pleased the operation went well. It sounds like an awful case to have. Will keep my fingers crossed for you over the coming months. Our boy is flexion tested in four weeks time to see if the operation was successful this is the final stage for him. I'll drop in and let you know how he goes. Pop in and let us know how your girl progresses - would love to know.

Best wishes

HorseMad NZer (Guest)
14-05-02, 04:45 AM
Well, just 4 days after surgery, the horse is trotting round a small paddock totally SOUND! Now I know she is on bute and antibiotics to stop infection, but she was never sound on bute even at double dosage prior to the operation! Her stride is what I remember seeing about a year ago - she is just covering the ground and floating - I forgot she could do this!

The vet, in a word, is AMAZED at her speedy recovery. Because she had open surgery on one stifle (the mice were so big they couldn't continue with arthroscopy), she was prone to infection and as the surgery took 1 hour longer than anticipated, he honestly expected problems. It was the worse case of OCD he had seen. But her recovery is fantastic - she is just NORMAL - cheeky as ever, and throw a kick in just to prove it!

I think my recovery programme may be different to yours "Been There". She will be in a small paddock with an elderly retired broodmare for company (and no hooning!) and the vet says I can bring her into work in a few months. From what he has seen inside her joints, there is a lot of damage, but everything can be smoothed over by the joint fluid (she is on glucosamine) and because she is young she can overcome the slightly eroded ball joints, and he says they will work themselves smooth over time.

Good luck getting your own horse checked - keep me posted. Remember, even if the flexion test is not 100%, he could still be totally rideable. I sold my last horse as a 14yo schoolmaster for dressage - he came up lame on 3 legs after a flexion test, but the vet said he would be fine for the lower level dressage that his new owner wants him for. The new owner has had him for nearly two years and events him lower level and competes him at elementary dressage - never a day of unsoundness yet. I had him priced accordingly, and even after he came up lame on 3 the price was never negotiated as I had a fair price on him due to his age and possible problems - neither of which have hindered him!

My girl comes home on Tuesday and I can't wait - it is like having a new horse, very exciting. And she IS a new horse!

amy_g (Guest)
28-05-02, 03:09 PM
I wouldn't put to much stress on your horse's legs in the future. I'm not to sure about OCD in horses, but I suffer from the human kind in my right knee. I've had an arthroscopy and have to go back soon to have another MRI, but my experience with it is that the pain in the joint never goes away. I was basically told by my Orthopedic Surgeon, that I will get arthritis in my knee from a much earlier age (he's an absolute pig of a man mind you, and hard to extract any info from, but he's a good surgeon). Mine got so bad when I was younger, that I couldn't straighten my knee (I'm sure the dancing and netball didn't help at all), but it's a real pain. I can't sit in the one position for long amounts of time with it bent at a strange angle - eg, I can't sit cross legged for more then one minute without it hurting. And I also definately can't run for more then 5 minutes at a time (I'm even risking it with that amount of time). And mine wasn't that bad, eg no floating bits that had broken off. Like I said, I don't know about it in horses, but you were asking for experiences, and well that's mine. The pig also told me that I would never recover from it!

HorseMad NZer/Carly (Guest)
29-05-02, 06:01 AM
Hi Amy_G,

I am sorry to read your story - I really hope you can recover. Have you tried taking supplements, i.e. glucosaminesulphate and cider vinegar? I have my young horse on this (began 3 months prior to the surgery) and I believe it helps. I also suffer back problems and use the tonic too, and it helps me immensely. Glucosaminesulphate thickens the joint fluid around your joints, and cider vinegar aids arthritis. Worth a try maybe? My consultant is a lady in the North Island of NZ and I am sure she would reply to you if you were to email her - her name is Everdien and she is contactable at hiralabs @ xtra dot co dot nz

I am pleased to report that from my point of view and watchful eye my filly is still sound - 3 weeks after surgery, and she is still in the recovery stage! But I have also been warned she could suffer secondary arthritis from an early age, so I will be sure to take measures with natural tonics and steady flexible work to ensure she leads a normal life.

jeff (Guest)
23-08-02, 08:20 AM

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