Thursday, April 23, 2009

Q&A Degenerative Tendonitis and Laminitis

Question: chronic degenerative tendonitis and laminitis. Are they genetic? What causes them? My horses sire was put down because of these.

This is a question from Denali that was posted in the comments section of the previous post, so I thought I would try to address it here.

Interesting question!

So we are referring to two separate issues. First: Chronic degenerative tendonitis

I did a quick internet search for “degenerative tendonitis” and found that in humans, degenerative tendonitis is a gradual degeneration or deterioration of the Achilles tendon. A condition sometimes referred to as tendinosis or tendinopathy. The Achilles tendon like all the other tendons of the human body relies on a steady blood flow to stay healthy. If you suffer many tears in the Achilles tendon over time these tears will prevent proper healing and the tendon won’t repair, as it should. If the tendon does not repair properly than the blood supply will not be as it should and the tendon will slowly deteriorate. This causes a weakening and thickening of the tendon, which will prevent normal movement and can lead to pain and an inability to move and to perform normal tasks. Degenerative tendonitis in many ways is just like any other tendonitis with the difference that it occurs over a long time and that it gets progressively worse.

Degenerative tendonitis is treated pretty much like other tendonitis in that you are treating the pain and use physical therapy, stretching exercises, a brace or boot and immobilization of the leg for rest in order to minimize the damage and to help rest and then allow for a return to use as much as possible. The difference is that it is understood that the body part will not be returning to normal function, as this is a degenerative form of tendonitis.

Interesting huh! If the tendon is torn over and over, it doesn’t heal well after a while and builds up what I would think of as scar tissue that can inhibit how a tendon moves over the bone beneath. Just a wild guess!

So is it hereditary? Wow, I don’t know. But I’d be inclined to say no. It would depend in my opinion on how athletic a person is.

As for a horse, they are natural athletes, but we humans tend to destroy their body parts by overworking them when they are very young and their bodies are still developing and/or sending them into hard work before they’re muscles and connective parts (tendons and ligaments) have had a chance to “warm up’ – get the blood circulating.

Although, in the wild, horses can go from sleeping to super fast in a split second anytime a predator steps out of the bushes. But then those bursts of energy are typically short sprints, then rest. They don’t run and run for hours at a time. They zip across a meadow and look back to see if the danger is still too close for comfort. For any wild animal conserving energy means survival.

As all horse owners should know, the laminae connects the coffin bone to the interior of the hoofwall. When the dermal layer (coffin bone side) of that connective tissue becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as laminitis.

A sudden onset of extreme inflammation of the dermal laminae is referred to as “acute laminitis.” When the laminae is damaged by inflammation, the sensitive or dermal layer of laminae gives up and the connection between the coffin bone to the interior hoof wall fails. That condition becomes long term, “chronic” and by then is generally referred to as “founder.”

So laminitis can be chronic, absolutely, and due to chronic founder, there is typically degeneration to the coffin bone, but not always. However, the dermal laminae is either alive and well with a healthy blood flow, acutely inflamed and failing, or dead as a doorknob.

I can only assume that the level of pain the horse was suffering with and how well his pain could be controlled would determine the decision to terminate his life. And how much effort and expense the owner was willing to extend to save him. Everyone has their own set of values when it comes to decisions like that.

There are so many things that can go wrong with our horses, I don’t think I would worry about these two conditions afflicting your mare just because the sire was diagnosed with them.

How’s that for an optimistic view?!:0)


Reddunappy said...

Hi Pat, I have a question for you. I have a post about my horses feet and I talked a little about how her foot is flaired out a bit. Pony Girl wanted me to explain more what flair is. I am not a farrier so I thought I would ask you, a barefoot specialist about it. Can you help us out, I dont feel qualifyied to give her an intelligent answer LOL

Denali said...

Thanks Pat!!! This helps out so much!! The vet said that "she'll be fine, don't Not use her because you're worried about that, but now that I know what they are exactly it makes me feel better!! Thank you so much!!