Friday morning our vet did a barn call, observed Red, did blocks of his heel and his pastern joint, and ruled out an abscess. While he was sore in the heel of his hoof, a block of the heel made no difference in his level of lameness. She stopped there and we scheduled a clinic appointment for the next day. Thanks to my good friends Cary and Steve, Red had a fine ride to the Clinic. We had to wait a few hours due to our Dr. being delayed by a field emergency. One of the many things I love about Cary is her solid, good-humored presence during rough moments. "No problem", she said, "I figure this is sort of horse karma, I don't want the vet rushing with my horses just to get to the next appointment on time." Yay Cary! We decided to have a late breakfast, leaving a VERY UNHAPPY Red hollering at us as we said goodbye and walked across the street. It was bad enough having to wear purple sparkley bell boots - watching us walk away from him was just more than my good horse could bear.
Once our vet arrived (about 1:00 - our appointment was at 10:00), she took Red through the diagnostic routine. Observations at the walk and trot in straight lines and circles; flex tests; joint palpitations. She noted that he seemed much better than the previous day. I asked her to give me a rating on the lameness scale - she said that on Thursday Red was a 4, today he was more a 3. Still lame though. So we began the looonggggg process of blocking each joint. Here is the sequence.
1. Pastern block - no real difference.
2. Hock block - some difference but Red is still lame.
3. Stifle block - a little more improvement but still lame.
Lots more observation, walking, trotting, flex tests. I commented that it seemed like his stifle action was unusual (knee action). She had me walk him while she moved with him, hand held over stifle. We agree to do hock and stifle x-rays. Red is SO NOT IMPRESSED with all of this but he is SUCH a good boy. We had to use a twitch for the hock and stifle blocking injections. As I cranked on his little squooshed-up lip his eyes softened and he became just incredibly calm - this relaxation lasted for the next hour or so. Just amazing. Calm or not, Red thought the whole business sucked.
After all the necessary diagnostic procedures, here is what we learned:
1. Red has moderate arthritic degeneration in his hock joint. Extending beyond one of the supposed to be curved edges of one of the many little bones is a hooked growth of bone - arthritic changes. This falls into the category of degenerative joint disease and since it is in the hock is often referred to as bone spavin.
2. The lateral condyle of his femur has some "mystery" possible degeneration (our vet will consult with her colleagues). The x-ray shown is not Red's but I've outlined the approximate shape of the mystery degeneration.
3. In Red's stifle there is occasional "upward fixation of the patella". Cause currently uncertain.
My reaction - Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. OK. Arthritic changes are to be expected and there they were, right before my eyes. Well Red IS 17. The upward fixated patella - hmmmmmm? What was not answered is HOW COME he went from sound to a 4 on the lameness scale overnight. How come? Our vet hypothesized that there was a triggering event that irritated the growing chronic but previously unexpressed skeletal changes. OK.
So the Good News = 1. No fractures. 2. No cysts or lesions.
The Not so Good News = 1. MODERATE arthritic changes. 2. Chronic, intermittent upward fixatation of the patella. 3. Mystery something.
My friend Cary said I have to remember and repeat our vet's last words, "Imminently treatable". Sorry I'm a bit fuzzy on the what and the how. Our vet talked about Cosequine, Legend, and Cortisone. She talked about the need for exercise to strengthen the quadriceps which will help stabilize the patella. She mentioned several potential invasive procedures that could be options if Red's sticky stifle gets worse. First thing is to do nothing and see if he gets worse, gets better, or stays the same.
The best news for Red, he gets to go back into the general pasture where he will not doubt immediately charge the new upstart gelding who will be trying to put the moves on Red's beloved.
Meanwhile, I am googling like crazy trying to learn about what our vet described. I will be looking for all alternative treatments. Oh, and contacting an animal communicator.