As described by the BEVA/RCVS 2011 Guidance notes on the examination of a horse on behalf of a prospective purchaser ‘the aim of the pre-purchase examination is to carry out a thorough clinical examination on behalf of a potential purchaser to identify and assess factors of a veterinary nature that could prejudice the horse’s suitability for its intended use. Each pre-purchase examination is carried out on behalf of a specific prospective purchaser so that the opinion can be based on that purchaser’s individual needs and intended use of the horse’. In addition to the 2 or 5 stage clinical exam referenced to above, additional procedures may be performed including radiography. The reasons for performing radiographic assessment as part of the pre-purchase examination usually include one of the following three reasons
1. Recommended by the vet
During the course of the examination the performing vet may pick up on certain clinical signs e.g. effusion (swelling) of a joint or a positive reaction to a flexion test that would make them concerned as to the potential for an underlying condition that could affect the horse’s future performance. As such they may recommend for radiographs to be taken. (Note: x-rays are the names of the beam used to take the radiographs. Radiographs are the pictures that they produce).
2. Requested by the purchaser
Alternatively, radiographs may be requested by the purchaser. This is most commonly seen in the sports horse and thoroughbred industries where horses are competing at a higher level and where the demands on the physical ability of the equine athlete is much greater. These horses also tend to exchange hands for significant sums of money and whilst there is no guarantee of long term soundness often purchasers prefer to radiographically assess these horses to detect any underlying problems which may affect their long-term potential and thus their suitability. Sometimes purchasers just like to know what they’re getting so as they can better manage the horses in the long run or affect their price at resale. Often these xrays are viewed as part of the overall ‘risk assessment’ pre purchase.
3. Required by the future insurance company.
The third scenario are when radiographs are required by the insurance company. This is most often when horses are being purchased over a certain value and this value will depend on the insurance company involved.
The areas to be radiographed and number of images taken will depend on what the insurance company, certain horse sales or the individual purchaser requires. Therefore, it is worth speaking to your insurance company/sales agent prior to booking a pre-purchase examination to see if firstly radiographs are required and secondly what images/views are needed. An example of a standard set of radiographs that we would take at our practice include the following;
- Front feet: 4 views (DP (front-back), Latero-medial (from the side), upright pedal and skyline navicular views.)
- All 4 fetlocks: 4 views (DP, Latero-medial, DLPMO (oblique), DMPLO (oblique))
- Hocks: 4 views (DP, Latero-medial, DLPMO, DMPLO)
- Stifles: 2 views (Cd-Cr (back-front) and Cd 30o lateral-craniomedial oblique)
- Back- Lateral views of the dorsal spinous processes
- In thoroughbred several views are taken of both knees (carpii)
It is worth noting that the shoes will usually be required to be removed in order for the full series of feet radiographs to be taken. This will be done at the time of the vetting after the clinical examination has been performed.
Pathology that we would be looking for include but are not limited to foot balance issues, navicular syndrome, developmental changes such as osteochondrosis (OC) or osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD), bone cysts, arthritic changes and kissing spines (Fig 1 and 2). The interpretation of the images will usually be done by the vet performing the examination however on occasion the purchaser will request that the radiographs be emailed to their own vet who will advise on the findings.
Whilst taking radiographs gives us more information it can at times make matters more complicated as radiographic changes may be evident whilst not currently affecting the horse’s athletic ability. This is why the interpretation of clinical and radiographic findings on determining a horse’s suitability for purchase is done on an individual case by case basis.
Following the acquisition and interpretation of the images the findings should be reported on the vetting certificate or on an attached addendum.
If you are unsure as to whether you require radiographs at a pre-purchase examination then it is best to contact your insurance company and/or talk to your own vets prior to the day of the examination.
Figure 1. a relatively large fragment off the upper pastern bone detected a PPE vetting xrays.
Figure 2. The most common site for OCD chip fragments in the hock.