Fused hocks in horses.

Have you heard of fused hocks in horses? These can either develop at a young age (juvenile osteochondral disease, as shown in the second x-ray image below), through degenerative joint disease, or sometimes through other trauma. Fused hocks tend to occur in the distal intertarsal and tarsometatarsal joints (the lower two joints in the hock). These joints have relatively low mobility.

La imagen puede contener: una o varias personas
A normal hock – note the space in the centre of the joint (the middle black line) compared to the image below.

How long does it take for hocks to fuse?

The process of bones fusing together is called ankylosis; in the hocks, the duration that this takes to complete can vary drastically between each individual horse.

La imagen puede contener: una o varias personas
A fused hock – note the lack of space (no black line) in the centre of the joint.

Are fused hocks painful?

It is assumed that fused hocks are less painful, however the full fusion is a very slow progress. If hocks are not entirely fused, they have the potential to cause discomfort. Medication of the joints may enable the horse to continue to move without pain whilst the process is underway, however this should be monitored by the vet, including the use of diagnostic imaging, to determine progress. Once the hocks are fused, any discomfort or lameness tends to be eliminated, and the horse should usually be able to carry on in normal work.

There are some surgical options to fuse hocks, but they have to be considered very carefully.

Why flies can harm the eyes!

Warmer weather unfortunately can mean more pesky flies, and they can often irritate horses’ eyes. You may notice that your horse has swollen eyes or discharge (from one or both eyes). Likewise, the conjunctiva (the membranes or pink tissues surrounding the eye) may be red. Also, the white of the horse’s eye (sclera) may have more small blood vessels showing.

What can I do to help my horse’s eyes?

Using fly masks can prevent flies from irritating the eyes by stopping them from landing. There are many types available (some with ear covers to prevent flies biting the inside of the ears too.) Fly repellant may also be a good idea but take care not to get in the eyes. Further irritation could occur! Remember that if there are showers, it may not remain on the skin long enough to be effective. In some cases we may use antibiotics or steroids (or a combination of the two) to combat symptoms. Steroids can often be used to reduce inflammation and antibiotics deal with any bacterial infection.

It is also important to have the right treatment; human over-the-counter eye drops may not be suitable for treating infections. Also, if you are competing, eye drops containing steroids may not be appropriate!

What else should I look out for?

If your horse is scratching itself, then it could have another condition such as sweet itch. This may need investigating so that an appropriate management plan can be put in place. Flies may also be responsible for transmitting BPV which can cause sarcoids! Corneal ulcers can also develop if the horse rubs or scratches the eyes on either its legs or another surface. Again, this is where prompt veterinary attention is required to assess and treat the problem, thereby reducing the risk of any further issues.

Flies can irritate horses' eyes. A horse's eye with flies near it.

Equine Cushing’s Disease (PPID)

Equine Cushing's Disease, PPID - Dr. Emiliano Espinar Veterinary Surgeon

Equine Cushing’s Disease (PPID)VIDEO

Learn about Equine Cushing’s Disease in this video explaining the symptoms, cause, diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Equine Cushing’s Disease (PPID)VIDEO

Learn about Equine Cushing’s Disease in this video explaining the symptoms, cause, diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Next heading…