Development Orthopedic Disease (DOD)

Performance Horse Nutrition

The term “DOD” describes a variety of orthopedic disorders in growing horses. Contracted tendons, wobbles, phystis, osteochondritis, osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) and angular limb deformities are all considered Development Orthopedic Disease. Genetics, nutrition, hormonal imbalances, disease and basic management practices may all contribute to DOD. Feeding excessive amounts of grain to young horses causes an unnatural fluctuation in levels of hormones such as insulin, growth hormone and thyroid hormones. This can result is the development of the over-conditioned horse with an increased risk of DOD. Mineral imbalances may also influence the incidence and severity of DOD. It is critical that the brood mare is fed a diet with the right mineral balance and energy requirement to provide the foal adequate nutrients for the initial development of their limbs. Proper calcium and phosphorus intake is crucial to healthy growth and development of bones. Copper, zinc and selenium are other critical minerals that must be fed in adequate amounts to ensure optimal bone growth. Lack of free exercise, sudden changes in nutrition levels, and exposure to stress can contribute to DOD in young horses. Free exercise increases bone strength. Thus it’s best not to confine growing horses to stalls for more than 10 hours a day. Abrupt changes in energy, protein or mineral intake level of growing horses can sometimes trigger abnormal growth rates and orthopedic disorders. Likewise, increased stress, such as poor weaning programs, can adversely affect growth weights and increase the weanling’s susceptibility to DOD.

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