What Is OCD In Horses? | Definition, Symptomps, And Treatment

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OCD stands for osteochondritis dissecans, which simply described as progressively joint diseases. This is quite a dangerous and painful disease that can affect your horse. A survey stated that 5-25% of horses all around the world have the relatively high risk to have OCD, and it can happen to all of the horse breeds, no matter how much the price is. The faster and larger growing horse breed is the riskiest ones.

Generally, the disease is the deficiency of endochondral ossification that leads to the disruption of the joint’s cartilage formation. In their words, the horse with OCD will have the abnormal form of cartilage joint which causes the cartilage and subchondral bone becomes irregular in thickness and weaker than other normal joints. This condition will become worse when the damaged joint is involved in horse’s move because it cam makes further damage to its tissue.


OCD in Horses
credits: www.horsefct.org

OCD harms the cartilage and bone of horse’s joint. Commonly, it affects to only one joint, though in some unusual case, multiple joints can also be harmed.  All joints may involve in this health issue, but the common ones are in the fetlock, hock, stifle and neck.

Causes of OCD in Horses

This joint disease can be caused by several things, such as:

  • The weight of the horse’s body

    The fast-growing and big horse is more prone to have OCD.

  • Malnutrition

    It can be the imbalance of calcium & phosphorus, mineral deficiencies like selenium & copper, excessiveness of zinc & manganese.

  • Hormonal Problem

    It may include growth hormone, insulin, and thyroxin.

  • Trauma from exercises around joint areas

  • Genetic


Symptoms and Diagnosis of OCD in Horses

It is quite hard to see the obvious symptoms of OCD, but there some signs that may indicate that your horse has OCD. The causes are differed due to the age of the horse. In fouls or horse under six months old, you may find swelling or liquid in the affected joints and lameness when they run fast or carry heavy weights. If you see the foals mostly lay down and avoid other animals because of those signs, it can be a warning for you to talk to a vet soon.

As for the adult horse, the signs may include flexion responses, lameness, stiff moves, reduced activity, and weak impulsion. The horses may struggle hard to stand up from laying down.

Radiograph examination is the most proper way to examine OCD in horses, because the visible indications may not appear on the affected horses. In some cases, the disease is even found coincidentally in radiography scanning. Further diagnosis may involve ultrasonographic, MRI, and arthroscopy. This diagnosis is to find the signs of unusual bone shape, bone fragments, flaps, cysts, and flips.


Treatment and Management of OCD in Horses

The common treatment that may be recommended by a vet is arthroscopic surgery which has been proven to repair the affected joints. It involves the removal of damaged cartilage, compromised bone, and osteochondral fragments and flushing the joint with a sterile liquid.

For mild level OCD, it is usually recovered by itself through regular exercise and dietary change. The diet may involve in reducing the food consumption to minimize further damage. Another recommendation is giving supplements like the ones which contain minerals.

Colorado State University reported that 55.9%  of horses which have OCD involved the younger ones or less than one year old. The bad news is, the disease mostly ignored by horse owners then it eventually leads to permanent joint damage. Always notice the symptoms and talk to a vet to get proper treatment.

You can always prevent OCD by managing the weight of the horse, giving proper nutrition, and regularly exercising the horse in the appropriate way.