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Hip Dysplasia in Friesians

In a recent clinical case report, clinicians and researchers from three different facilities in the Netherlands and Belgium described the case of an 8 month old Friesian foal that was admitted to the Equine Clinic at Utrecht University for an abnormal curvature of the spine over the area of the chest (thoracolumbar kyphosis) that had worsened progressively over the preceding few weeks and medical treatment had not improved the situation. The owner had reported that the foal was reluctant to trot or canter and would shift his weight on both hindlimbs. There was no history of trauma to account for the symptoms. The foal also had swollen stifle joints (femoropatellar joints) and the referring veterinarian suspected the foal suffered from Osteochondrosis (OCD).


Upon physical examination at the Equine Clinic, the foal was found to have swollen hip muscles on both sides, which were painful when palpated. The foal appeared lame on both hindlimbs, but flexion tests did not worsen the lameness. Radiographs were taken of both stifles and the spine, with no boney abnormalities noted. A CT was then performed on the foal to look at the pelvis and hip joints (coxofemoral joints). The results of the CT showed that the foal had incomplete and abnormally developed acetabula (the socket on the hip bone where the head of the femur fits into) on both sides, leading to a diagnosis of “Osteochondral Dysplasia of the Coxofemoral Joints”, aka “hip dysplasia” similar to what is commonly seen in dogs. “Hip Dysplasia” has been reported to be a hereditary disease in both dogs and man and seems to result from a mutation in the genes that code for collagen. The paper concluded by suggesting that “when encountering a weight-shifting stance in the hindlimbs together with a kyphosis of the back and a shortened hindlimb gait, bilateral coxofemoral joint disease should be on the differential diagnosis list of possible causes”. CT was suggested as the best diagnostic method to detect the presence of this hip issue.


Relevance? One has to wonder if this issue isn’t part of the bigger problem that we are recognizing with the Friesian breed with respect to collagen and elastin. The hope would be that once this is “worked out” from a genetic standpoint, issues such as this, as well as some of the other related issues that this breed currently struggles with, will decrease as we breed with more and more knowledge.


Scientific Article” Hermans, H. et al “Osteochondral dysplasia of the coxofemoral joints in a Friesian foal: Clinical findings and methods of diagnosis” Equine Veterinary Education 2014.



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