Using selection to beat OCD

drs. Waling Haijtema (Foto: Digishots)

Osteochondrosis is a disorder in the development of cartilage. It starts at a very young age, somewhere between one to eight months old. It is a dynamic process and many foals heal naturally because the loose pieces of cartilage are absorbed and the OCD disappears. If not, then the loose pieces may ossify and cause problems in the joint (OCD) later in life.
Often, it is not visible from the outside that a horse has OCD, it can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian after taking X-rays. When a horse is lame because of OCD then the affliction in the joint is serious. OCD is a very common problem, about 30% of horses older than two are diagnosed. Results differ per breed but due to a lack of research not all studbooks have available data on OCD. OCD is far more common in larger equine breeds like the KWPN and KFPS than in pony breeds. Horses with a fast growth rate are more at risk of developing OCD

How to prevent OCD in Friesians?

The question the KFPS Breeding Council is faced with right now is ‘How can OCD be prevented in Friesian horses?’ Waling Haijtema, veterinarian and member of the KFPS Breeding Council: ‘The Breeding Council is looking into the possibility to do progeny testing on Friesian horses just for OCD in the hock. This is the most common occurrence and has a high correlation with OCD in the knee joint. Moreover, OCD in the hock has the highest degree of heredity. If we restrict ourselves to testing of OCD just in the hock then four X-rays will suffice. It is up to the breeders to decide if this is adequate or whether they think more X-rays of their horse should be taken.’ Haijtema points out that doing nothing is not an option: ‘We have to get on top of OCD by using better selection methods.’

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