Cart 0

No products

Total shipping  To be determined

0,00 € Total

Check out

Continue shopping Proceed to checkout

Bone spavin in horses – what is it? How to detect it and start treatment?

Published: 2022-02-08 10:48:27 Categories: Horse health Rss feed

koń nogi zawody jeździeckie

If you spend your time with horses and horse riders on a daily basis, you have certainly heard of equine bone spavin. Read this article if you want to brush up on your knowledge and understanding of what spavin is, how to recognize it and how to help a horse that has been diagnosed with it.

Bone spavin is a serious problem – it can keep your horse out of work and, above all, it brings him pain, so it is good to know what causes the disease and how to help a horse diagnosed with spavin.

Spavin in horses – what exactly is it?

Spavin is a degenerative joint disease in one or both hind legs of a horse, also referred to as arthritis or osteoarthritis. The disease is the most common cause of hind limb lameness.

weterynarz noga konia

The tarsal joint in horses consists of four parts, three of which have limited mobility. Spavin is found at this exact area of the horse's leg and is the result of inflammation of the joint. The inflammation causes changes that result in bone spurs forming within the joint. These, in turn, can lead to deformation of the joint, fusion of the limb bones and damage of the articular cartilage in horses, causing immobilization of the joint.

The disease can affect any horse, but it is most common in adult and elderly horses over 8 years old.

Spavin - causes

There is a number of reasons for bone spavin. It is not entirely clear what causes it. Veterinarians and breeders suggest the following as possible causes for the disease:

  • injuries caused by overexertion, especially at a young age
  • inflammation of the fetlock joint and periosteum
  • mechanical trauma to the limb (e.g. following a kick or an accident)
  • abnormal anatomical structure of the hind legs
  • inappropriate shoeing of the horse
  • improper feeding

It is uncertain whether spavin is hereditary, but predispositions (e.g., leg structure that predisposes horses to spavin) may be passed on genetically.

koń noga

How to identify bone spavin in a horse? Symptoms.

The first symptoms of equine bone spavin are lameness, shortened stride or dragging of the hind leg. Lameness usually occurs when the horse begins to move after a period of rest (e.g. at the beginning of a training). When the animal is in motion, improvement occurs, but the problem recurs after some time.

Spavin causes a lot of pain, so horses walk in a specific way that makes the front part of the hoof wear down much faster. In the subsequent stages of the disease, bony spurs may appear on the joint.

A test that helps to determine whether a horse has spavin is to flex the horse's limb under its stomach for about a minute. Then, the horse is put to a trot, preferably on a hard surface. The occurence of lameness may be a sign of spavin, but the test does not rule out a disorder of the other joints (knee and hip), which are also bent during it.

Although nowadays we have access to advanced diagnostic methods, careful and skilful observation is still very valuable. Lameness does not have to be an indication of spavin, but it should always be a warning signal that alerts the horse's owner.

Diagnosis of bone spavin

prześwietlenie rentgen koń weterynarz

One way to find out if a horse has bone spavin is to take X-rays, which, if detected, will immediately show the magnitude and severity of the disorder. It is important to remember, however, that spavin in its early stages may not produce an image on X-rays. Diagnostic anesthesia is also used to detect this condition.

The most reliable diagnostic method is scintigraphy. It is an expensive test that involves the administration of a preparation that is distributed through the bloodstream. As a result, inflammation, even minor, is visible on the image.

Spavin in horses - treatment

The prognosis for horses with spavin is poor, but the disease is not terminal. The treatment is primarily aimed at getting rid of the inflammation and reducing the pain experienced by the animal. Treatment methods are chosen depending on the severity of the disease and the horse's lifestyle, as well as its overall health. The available treatment options include:

  • orthopedic shoeing that relieves pressure on the joint affected by the arthritis
  • anti-inflammatory and pain medications
  • joint injections, such as hyaluronic acid injections. Be careful with steroid injections, which can destroy articular cartilage.
  • services of a physiotherapist for horses (laser treatments, ultrasounds, magnetotherapy)
  • shock wave therapy
  • surgery

weterynarz koń noga

In some cases, the horse should be kept out of training, but there are times when a horse can and even must be trained regularly to avoid aggravating the problem. The decision is up to the veterinarian who is treating the particular animal.

This article is for informational purposes only. Knowledge gained on the Internet does not substitute a veterinarian's diagnosis.


If you're looking for grooming products to help you take care of your horse, click here and check out the wide offer of the Equishop equestrian store.

Do you have any questions? Remember that the entire Equishop Team is here to assist you.

Equestrian store: +48 784 039 784


Latest news from the equestrian store Equishop: