Infrared Thermography can be a useful tool when used alongside thorough examination and other imaging methods in lameness investigations.
Thermography measures skin surface temperature differences associated with changes in blood flow near the skin surface, converting them into a colour image. The changes in blood flow can reflect an underlying injury.
It appears to be most useful in detecting problems associated with the sole of the foot including bruising, abscesses and potentially laminitis, as well as in racehorses for detecting early changes in the superficial digital flexor tendon and cannon bones before injury occurs, allowing a change in training regime.
It does have its limitations, however. It is not good at identifying bony pathology other than at the top of the cannon bone, and can’t assess ligaments well. Chronic joint disease (such as arthritis) will also not be detected. As it is surface temperature that is being measured, deep structures such as the sacroiliac joint which is covered by a large bulk of muscle tissue cannot be assessed.
The lower limb has a large role in thermoregulation – the blood vessels respond quickly to changes in ambient temperatures by dilating in hot weather to reduce the horses temperature and vice versa in the cold. This makes interpretation of the significance of limb temperature very difficult when environmental conditions cannot be easily controlled.
If you have any worries regarding your horses soundness or performance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.