Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hank is seeing a therapist...

...a physical therapist – moi! Yet another profession I am practicing without a license. I don't think he'll sue me.

Hank started showing signs of arthritis in his right knee three years ago, at the age of 12. He received monthly shots of Legend for four months, and I put him on Cetyl M. That seemed to relieve his discomfort. But over the past few months, his knee has been bothering him again. I discussed his treatment options with our favorite vet last week, and we've come up with a plan.

I brought home a new drug for his bad days, which can be given steadily or intermittently as required. It's called Previcox – it is supposed to relieve pain like bute, but it lasts longer and doesn't have the side effects. Part B of the plan is physical therapy to prevent any further loss in his range of motion. Though he's on the move 24/7, walking around the pasture doesn't require him to bend his knee to its limits. That's where I come in.

Every day, Hank and I have a little therapy session. I pick up his right front leg and gently bend it as far as I can, then set it back down, for 30 repetitions. He couldn't be a more cooperative patient, standing quietly, gazing out across the horizon...while I'm hunched over, wrenching my back as I exercise his leg. Who's gonna be my therapist when this is over?

His good leg bends to 45 degrees.

His bad leg bends to about 60 degrees. It will be interesting to see if we can improve that.

I haven't been able to find any how-tos online for equine physical therapy. If you know of any, or have any experience with this, I'd love to hear from you.


  1. Well..I found this cool but sortta weird site for Equine water tredmill thingy. http://www.horsetreadmills.com/physical_therapy.htm

    Then...on Amazon.com there were a couple books on horse massage.
    Physical Therapy and Massage for the Horse
    Physical Therapy and Massage for the Horse by Jean Marie Denoix
    ..and how to adjust their spine and stuff too. More than I ever needed to know I guess!!
    Ok..it's like 15 min later and I'm stuck in the U of Tenn. website about therapy for dogs and horses. I have neither!

  2. There are books for equine massage and stretching.
    My main word of warning is to thoroughly check out who you get your advice from! A girl that used to ride for me took a weekend eq.mass. course... turns out it was pretty much BS and a waste of time & money.

  3. Linda, with Salina's arthritic knees, her range of motion is pretty constricted at this point - but she's 25 years old!

    Still, I notice that when we cave in and pick her feet at a lower angle, that gradually becomes the "new norm." So I think what you're doing is wonderful and I feel sure it will help him keep the range he has for much longer.

    The other thing we do that she LOVES is to stretch the front legs out straight in front of her. It not only doesn't bother her joints, it seems to stretch the muscles out in a way that loosens things up for her. She will do that all day long if you will do it with her.

    Our trimmer also felt that the previous farrier was leaving too much toe - causing some stumbling, which we had attributed to her knees. Once the toes were brought back, the stumbling quite literally stopped. That day. It was amazing, but made total sense. I don't know if that's an issue on your end at all, but just thought I'd throw it in.

    Medication wise, I've had great success with Adequan injections. We don't do the loading dose and then monthly injections - our vet recommends doing the loading dose every 3rd or 4th month - so 3-4x/year, both Salina and Keil Bay (for him it's preventative) get weekly Adequan injections for 4 weeks. You can do it for the entire 7, and that will likely be the next step for Salina.

    During the months they're off the Adequan, I rotate them onto feed-through joint supplements. Horsetech's Hylasport with Devil's Claw and MSM is my current favorite.

    There is also a lovely homeopathic cream called Traumeel that seems to help.

    I also have a buffered apple flavored bute powder from my vet that mixes into the feed and is helpful during bad days and 24 hours before the trimmer comes.

    And finally, access to turn-out 24/7 seems to make a huge difference in keeping the joints flexible. Salina is never stalled and she keeps herself moving.

    She did have the left knee injected with Vetalog in the spring, when it turned out to be an abscess - and I never noticed any positive change at all in the knee, the range of motion, or her comfort, so I doubt we would ever go that route again.

    My next avenue with her will be acupuncture, as I am learning it can be quite helpful with arthritic pain.

    We also used the Surpass cream and that was helpful but I actually like the Traumeel better.

  4. You're such a good Mom. I'll bet Hank enjoys the attention.

  5. Klasieprof, thanks for doing my research. Your last line totally cracked me up. The internet is such a bottomless pit for information junkies.

    Cdncowgirl, I hear you. Anything I do to or put into my horses gets run past the vet first.

    And Billie, thanks for sharing all that experience with Salina. A vet had recommended Traumeel for one of my dogs many moons ago - never thought of trying it on one of the horses.

    Carolynn, Hank does love the attention and of course I love giving it to him.

  6. Linda,
    I hope all the stretching and bending helps handsome Hank feel better. And I hope you are able to find a handsome strong cowboy to give you a massage after all that awkward bending and lifting puts your back out of whack. :)


  7. I think you should come up with a horse and human exercise routine so that both you and Hank can workout together - You might make a fortune on it - I can see the DVD and the photo book already - Let's think of a catchy title. My vet just recommended the Platinum Performance with glucosamine and chondritin. It's only available on the company's website - I just got it, so I'll let you know how the girls do with it. We're all creaky around here these days, especially with the wet weather.