Splints

Veterinary advice should be sought before applying any treatment or vaccine.

Splints

Interosseous Desmitis

Splints refer to swellings that develop on the splint or cannon bones, that are caused by repetitive strain during exercise or trauma at the site. When a splint first occurs, it presents as an inflammed and painful swelling. Over time, the swelling may ossify and form a bony prominence at the site. The splint bones, known as the second and fourth metacarpals, are narrow bones that run down the back of the horse's leg, on either side of the cannon bone.

Horses that develop splints on both front legs or both hind legs, found at the same locations, it is usually the result of concussion from working on too hard of a surface. When splints develop on one leg, it is most likely caused by trauma as a result of a direct kick from another horse, interference with the opposite foot, or some other trauma. Horses with splints may or may not show evidence of lameness.

Symptoms

Swelling on the splint bone
85%
Mild, sometimes transient lameness
50%
Heat and pain may initially be present
50%

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiographs
  • Nuclear scintigraphy
  • Ultrasound
  • Computed Tomography
  • Thermography

Treatment


TreatmentDetails
Stall rest and controlled exercise
Systemic NSAIDs
Corrective shoeing
Boots and protective bandages
Leg poultices and wraps
Topical 1% diclofenac sodium
Surgery

Prevention

  • Correction of any gait abnormalities that might predispose the horse to splints
  • Long term use of protective bandages, wraps or shin boots.
  • Do not exercise horses on very hard surfaces

Prognosis

Excellent once the inflammation and pain have subsided however, chronic lameness can occur if lesions impinge upon the suspensory ligament.

Scientific Research References

Good Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Working a young or unfit adult horse at fast speeds too early, before bone density changes have occurred
  • Exercising horses on very hard surfaces