Answer Exchange

  • Q:

    I have an 11-month old Arabian that has been diagnosed with OCD. This yearling has been fed the same as all previous foals from this stallion-mare combination and the same as the other yearling we raised. I have been trying to find the best way to proceed with this horse and would like some advice as to whether a change in feeding would help avoid surgery. Or is surgery inevitable? What is the long-term prognosis likely to be? In 20 years of breeding, this is the first time one of my homebreds has been diagnosed with this problem.

  • A:

    Foals develop OCD lesions (osteochondrosis dissecans) for several reasons, and you are fortunate that throughout the years you have avoided this problem. The following two articles might help you better understand the disease: Bridge the Gap Between OCD and Nutrition and Principles of Bone Development in the Horse.

    Some OCD lesions resolve without surgical intervention, but without knowing the particulars of your horse’s case, it is difficult to say. If your veterinarian recommends surgery, then it is probably the best option. If the OCD has been characterized as a chip, surgery will likely take care of the problem before it becomes a chronic issue. The surgery is simple and prognosis is usually very good if surgeons remove all of the chips. Most horses recover without incident from this type of surgery. If the OCD is characterized as a cyst in the joint, the surgery is not as promising and prognosis may be guarded.

    Nutritional deficiencies and imbalances can be responsible for the development of OCD lesions. Correcting nutritional problems may prevent future lesions but will do little to help existing ones. If you have never had a problem with OCD lesions in all your years of breeding, I doubt that you have a nutritional problem unless you have made some radical changes recently with your program. 

     One-on-one consultation with an equine nutritionist is your best bet in allaying any fears that your foal’s problem was nutritionally induced.