Background: Only recently recognized in horses. Any condition causing the disc between the vertebrae to protrude or interfere with the spinal cord can result in this condition. Horses were thought to not acquire disc disease, however it has been proven to the contrary by the work of Jean Marie Denoix from France. Once damaged, the normally soft and cushioned disc can become hardened and calcified. Not all calcified discs cause pain or disability, but often can. Many horses are predisposed to injury or damage due to weakened tendons and ligaments that hold the vertebrae and discs in place. This degeneration is due to lack of exercise, obesity, poor quality diet or vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Symptoms: Chronic back pain, esp. in lumbar area, stiffness in lumbar area, poorly responsive to conventional pain management and lower hock joint injections.
Diagnostics: Thorough spinal examination, neurological examination, motion palpation of the spine (chiropractors exam). Ultrasound rectally can be performed, but some discs lesions are out of reach. Radiography can be helpful, though difficult in the lumbar area.
Special Notes: Chiropractic/osteopathic adjusting can help prevent, as well as treat, disc disease if done carefully and gently by a well-trained practitioner. Acupuncture helps, especially with back pain and restoration of nerve function.
Principles for Supplementation: Nourish the disc by supplying minerals and nutrients known to have affinity for the disc.