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Discussion on Epiphysitis and Nutrition

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Seidler Paint Horses
Posted on Friday, Feb 4, 2000 - 11:03 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have a good friend who has a 8 mo old Paint filly that has been diagnosed by four vets with Epiphysitis. None of the vets has given a very good treatment program or offered any ongoing support of the treatment. Two of the four told her to continue with graining and alfalfa to keep the filly fit. My first reaction was to tell my friend to discontinue the high content protein sources and go to a grass hay and high fat supplement for weight gain. My friend has now consulted a farrier who specializes in holistic treatment of bone and joint problems, and is concerned whether this is a waste of precious time, as she feels that surgery may be better. Anyone have any first hand experience with Epiphysitis?
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Jordana Meisner
Posted on Friday, Feb 4, 2000 - 11:46 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi Vseidler - ditch the grain and the alfalfa immediately, and make sure the filly is getting plenty of exercise. Epiphysitis is caused largely by the foal growing too fast, too soon. When I got my Oldenburg colt at the age of 5 months, he was in show-ring shape (aka "fat"!), and had touch of epiphysitis on his front pasterns. He was getting a huge amount of grain - 12 lb a day of Equine Jr. We immediately dropped it to 6 lb, and then down to 3lb. In 2 weeks the condition was gone. Babies don't even need grain, as long as they have access to good grass and good hay.

I think your first reaction is correct - grass hay. I don't know if the high fat diet is necessary. It's better to have a skinny filly with the right proportions of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and a few others. I don't remeber the correct ratios for this, but I'm sure others will provide that.
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Nada J. Woodworth DVM
Posted on Friday, Feb 4, 2000 - 8:25 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Seidler and Jordana:
I am going to refer you to the May 1999 issue of The Horse Magazine. It has an excellent article on Epiphysitis (pp. 43-50). The article covers what epiphysitis is and what it is not. It also covers The National Research Council recommendations for specific nutrient concentrations in rations for growing horses.
The article covers all the information on calcium, phosphorous, and protein content of rations. As the article states, the important thing is that we take a scientific approach when designing a diet for the young, growing horse. The NRC guidelines are a good place to start, but the growth and development of individual young horses must be monitored closely in order to prevent problems. Above all, an appropriate balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals is a must.
As for treatments, the article discusses those as well and it starts out to say that step one, in most cases, involves cutting back on the amount of food energy the horse is ingesting. Just how much of a cutback is involved wil depend on the individual an the amount being fed. In some cases, it might involve the elimination of all grain, with the horse being put on a grass hay or alfalfa/grass hay diet. If it has not been done already, this is the time for a complete analysis of the horse's ration along with consultation with a vet. I would say that a ration analysis would be in order and it sounds like that it will need to be altered for this Paint filly. I have seen young colts with epiphysitis and after their ration was corrected, they showed a positive response in 6 to 8 weeks and some even sooner. Early treatment of the condition is important so that permanent damage is prevented. I hope this information helps. Sincerely, Dr. Woodworth
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Posted on Saturday, Feb 5, 2000 - 6:37 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello VSeidler,
Epiphysitis is a term that is badly misused. You find young horses that range from normal to infected physis that fall into this classification. The particular treatment for this horse will depend on the clinical and radiographic findings. I am becoming cautious about handing advice out second and third hand because it is difficult enough to get a accurate full scoop first hand. On the other hand I hate to leave you hanging, hmmm...I do not have an article on epiphysitis I will see if I can compose one next week.
DrO
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Seidler Paint Horses
Posted on Tuesday, Feb 22, 2000 - 7:11 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thank you very much for your responses. The filly is not getting any better and is now "knuckling over" due to contracture of the flexor tendons, particularly severe in the front legs. The vet who originally diagnosed the filly with epiphysitis did xrays, which bore out his diagnosis, but didn't show OCD lesions. He is recommending surgery to relieve the "knuckling over". Thus leaving my friend without much of a hopeful prognosis. Has anyone ever had this type of surgery on a yearling? If so what has been the outcome? Thank you!
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Posted on Wednesday, Feb 23, 2000 - 10:13 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Seidler,
Well I still don't have that article on epiphysitis done, but we do have an article on flexor tendon contracture a problem not related to the epiphysitis. See, Equine Diseases: Foal Diseases: Contracted Tendons.
DrO
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Ann Womack
Posted on Wednesday, Feb 23, 2000 - 1:12 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

As you know S--- happens but on a positive note I have seen a couple of horses who have had this surgery & are competitive athletes today. There's always hope!
Ann
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Ann Womack
Posted on Wednesday, Feb 23, 2000 - 1:23 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Also, I have a yearling who had quite severe angular limb deformity at birth. He had surgery on the growth plate of both front legs at 10 days old and is as straight as you could want today. We don't know what caused it, the mare had the best of care during the pregnancy but she did only carry him for 320 days so I don't really know if that could have been a factor. My vet took one look at him & more or less said there was no point in waiting to see if he would straighten up by himself. In fact he said, 'you don't really think all these straight legged stallions come by it naturally do you!' I couldn't have been more pleased with the results, the hardest part was keeping the poor guy in his stall for the first month of his life! We've had no other limb problems & he is a hair under 16H at 20 months of age.
Ann
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