In 1986, the term Developmental Orthopaedic Disease, or DOD, was used for the first time. The term is a general description and can be misleading as DOD not only refers to bone diseases, but also to problems that are found in developing joints and plates. Developmental Orthopaedic Disease is therefore a diagnosis for any development issues of the musculoskeletal structure. Even though there is no specific general cure or treatment that can assist in all the various forms of Developmental Orhtopaedic Disease, problems can be treated and steps can be taken to prevent most DODs.
There are different types of Developmental Orthopeadic Disease such as Physitis, Juvenile Osteoarthritis, Subchondral Cystic lesions, Flexural Deformities, Osteochondritis Dissecans, Cubodial Bone Abnormalities and Angular Limb Deformities. Keeping a close eye on the development and growth of a foal can assist breeders and owners in detecting abnormalities quickly. Taking extra good care of a pregnant mare is already the first step to preventing DOD.
Once the foal has been born, it requires special care throughout its weanling and yearling growth periods. The most telling sign for the onset of Developmental Orthopaedic Disease can be seen in the swelling of the joints, especially the fetlock, hock and stifle. Plate problems are also easily noticeable as the plates become enlarged and cause the horse an extreme amount of pain. The plates located above the fetlocks and the knees are most commonly affected by DOD. Once these signs have been seen, owners and breeders should contact their veterinarian immediately, as the sooner a problem is diagnosed, the quicker a horse can be treated and further deformation prevented.
Genetics and irresponsible breeding methods also play a major role in DOD cases, as genetics can influence development rate, conformation and weight. Not allowing a foal the freedom of a paddock can also lead to severe developmental problems, as being closed in a stable for long periods creates a lot less strain on the bones, but hinders the strong bone growth and the ability to carry the weight of the maturing horse. Giving growing foals the correct nutrition is vital to their development and getting nutritional advice from a veterinarian will be beneficial to the care and protection of the foal.
There are many factors that can play a role in horses being plagued by Developmental Orthopaedic Disease, and scientists have been searching for exact causes. As Thoroughbred horses are asked to perform as athletes from an early age, it is essential for them to be protected from DOD as best as possible. Technology has advanced greatly, and most DOD cases can be treated. All it takes is an attentive owner or breeder who is educated to be able to detect problems early, get the necessary help and take action speedily.