Objective assessment of the compensatory effect of clinical hind limb lameness in horses: 37 cases (2011-2014)

Maliye S, Marshall JF. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2016 Oct 15; 249 (8): 940-944.

OBJECTIVE: To characterize and describe the compensatory load redistribution that results from unilateral hind limb lameness in horses.

DESIGN: Retrospective case series.

ANIMALS: 37 client-owned horses.

PROCEDURES: Medical records were reviewed to identify horses with unilateral hind limb lameness that responded positively (by objective assessment) to diagnostic local anesthesia during lameness evaluation and that were evaluated before and after diagnostic local anesthesia with an inertial sensor-based lameness diagnosis system. Horses were grouped as having hind limb lameness only, hind limb and ipsilateral forelimb lameness, or hind limb and contralateral forelimb lameness. Measures of head and pelvic movement asymmetry before (baseline) and after diagnostic local anesthesia were compared. The effect of group on baseline pelvic movement asymmetry variables was analyzed statistically.

RESULTS: Maximum pelvic height significantly decreased from the baseline value after diagnostic local anesthesia in each of the 3 lameness groups and in all horses combined. Minimum pelvic height significantly decreased after the procedure in all groups except the hind limb and contralateral forelimb lameness group. Head movement asymmetry was significantly decreased after diagnostic local anesthesia for horses with hind limb and ipsilateral forelimb lameness and for all horses combined, but not for those with hind limb lameness only or those with hind limb and contralateral forelimb lameness.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Results supported that hind limb lameness can cause compensatory load redistribution evidenced as ipsilateral forelimb lameness. In this population of horses, contralateral forelimb lameness was not compensatory and likely reflected true lameness. Further studies are needed to investigate the source of the contralateral forelimb lameness in such horses.