Carpitis

Also Known As

Knee sprain

Description

Carpitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the carpal joint that may involve the fibrous joint capsule, synovial membrane, associated ligaments, and bones of the carpus which is the knee apparatus in a horse. Carpitis often develops from an exercise-induced sprain of the ligaments that stabilize the interior of the knee joint.

Race horses, hunters, jumpers, and cross country eventers tend to sustain injuries leading to carpitis. In addition, poor conformation with incorrect alignment of the knees may be a contributing factor, especially in young horses that have just started training. .

Symptoms

  • Swelling of the knee joint
  • Joint hot to the touch
  • Pain
  • Lameness
  • Reluctance to bend the knee
  • Favoring of the affected limb

Causes

Causes of carpitis may be either exercise or conformation driven. Horses that are engaged in exercise and activities that generate excessive concussive force, such as that generated in cross country events where the horse clears a jump and then lands on an area that slopes away from the jump causing great stress to the knee joint, are susceptible to injuries leading to chronic or acute inflammation.

Conformation causes of carpitis result when the knees are incorrectly aligned, affecting the gait and creating stress on the knee joints.

Prevention

At the first signs of swelling or knee injury, the horse should be allowed to rest for up to several weeks. Failure to do so may result in fractures of the small bones in the knee joint.

Good horse management and training that gradually builds the horse's ability to safely engage in hard exercise activities, such as jumping, racing, and cross country events, will help prevent many cases of carpitis.

In addition, safety measures should be adopted to prevent horses from falling on hard surfaces or injuring the knee joint in other activities where over-exertion of the carpus may result.

Treatment

Treatment of carpitis usually relies on resting the horse for several weeks. Butazolidin helps relieve pain and swelling. Some veterinarians recommend injections with hyaluronic acid. This treatment usually works well with horses that do not have conformation problems. Horses with conformation problems in the knees and limbs often suffer recurring bouts of carpitis.

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