So How Much Does a Lameness Exam Cost?
When you think your horse has a lameness issue or a sport related lameness problem, this is an important question to consider. In this short video we will go through some of the various factors that influence the cost.
The initial part of an exam starts before we look at you horse and is the history you provide us. This includes things like how long the problem has been there, when you notice it, and what things you have already done to try and resolve it. Then we perform the physical and lameness exam. Depending on the problem your horse has, will influence how complex our exam will be, so a simple problem like a foot abscess which presents easily and doesn’t require extensive trotting and flexions will have a shorter exam than a subtle lower hock issue. So simpler exams can vary from $50-80 up to $175-$250 for an exam that includes the basic evaluation plus flexions and a ridden exam. We have a lameness locator which is essentially a computer that measures your horse’s lameness, and this is offered at no additional cost.
The next factor to consider is if we must perform nerve blocks. We use nerve blocks to pinpoint exactly where the pain is coming from. We usually perform a step-wise nerve block of the limb from the ground up. This is due to the way the nerve path travels, although some horses may present in a way that allows us to block a specific joint. For complex upper limb problems there can be 7-8 different blocks required. So the cost depends on the location of the problem, but the nerve blocks per leg can vary from $75 per block which can go up to $500 per limb.
Diagnostic Radiographs or Ultrasound
Once we have pinpointed the site of pain, we then have a few diagnostic options available. The most basic are radiographs and ultrasound. On average, 4-6 radiographic views per joint are required for a complete series. The cost for this is $200-300. For ultrasound we routinely use advanced techniques which include on and off incidence scanning in addition to non-weight bearing and color flow Doppler scanning to provide the most comprehensive exam. Ultrasound cost between $275-300 for a region or limb.
If our standard diagnostic exams, nerve blocks, and radiographs or ultrasound cannot completely establish the cause of the problem then we will discuss advanced imaging which includes bone scans, MRI or CT scanning. We send cases to private hospitals or universities for these procedures which vary in cost but are around $3000 each. Bone scans give a picture of the bone activity of the whole horse, while MRI scans give very detailed images of a small region for example just a hoof or fetlock. Additional regions on MRI cost another $500.
So you can see there are a lot of factors to consider but hopefully this gives you some useful information for you and your horse.