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Frustrated by a lack of consistency in diagnosing degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis (DSLD) in the early stages, Jeanette Mero and Janet Scarlett took a close look at the case records of 45 Peruvian Paso horses. Nearly half of these horses had earlier been diagnosed with a DSLD injury that was confirmed by a histological examination of the ligament tissue. As horses suffering from DSLD develop a progressive deterioration of the collagen within the weakened suspensory ligament, the fetlock sinks toward the ground.
Among the earliest signs of the disease is pain upon palpation of the ligament, reports Mero, an equine veterinarian with Starland Veterinary Service in Ithaca, N.Y. The next sign is visible lameness and a dramatic reaction to flexor testing when the limb is held in a tight position for a minute. Mero and Scarlett, a Cornell University veterinarian, suggest following these steps with any horse suspected of having DSLD:
When a shoeing client tries to explain what is wrong with a lame horse, it’s essential that you listen carefully, says Mark Peterson. A member of the board of an international organization for hotel concierges, he says listening means more than just hearing what a client has to say. He maintains that it’s important to look for clues…