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Bucked Shins: New Treatment May Provide ReliefBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 14, 2017

Bucked shins—a painful inflammation of the periosteum of cannon bones in young, athletic horses—limits performance and mandates time off from training and competition. In other countries, bucked shins is referred to as shin soreness or sore shins. Few treatment options for bucked shins exist outside of rest, administration of pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and, in some cases, shockwave therapy.

“Due to the lack of effective treatment for bucked shins and the association between bucked shins, dorsal metacarpal disease, and stress remodeling and fractures, alternate treatment options would be beneficial to affected animals,” noted Laura Petroski, B.V.M.S., a veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

In a recent effort to discover better options for owners and trainers of horses affected by bucked shins, one research team* explored the use of an algae-derived toxin that becomes concentrated in shellfish that consume the algae.

“Paralytic shellfish poisons (PSP) are considered secondary metabolites, which by definition are compounds produced during normal metabolism that have potent biological activities,” Petroski explained.

PSPs, such as neosaxitoxin, purportedly have two distinct mechanisms following local administration: blocking nerve impulses that transmit pain and imparting a muscle-relaxing effect.

The researchers injected 14 horses with purified neosaxitoxin, placing the PSP just under the skin near the affected regions of the cannon bone. Neosaxitoxin successfully reduced pain associated with bucked shins, for as long as three weeks, with no side effects.

“Our findings are promising for other veterinary applications and open up a new path for the use of this type of phycotoxins in pain control,” the researchers wrote. “While classical pain management is still greatly used in clinics, our study highlights the benefits of this innovative method of pain control, with rapid recovery that permits faster horse rehabilitation due to pain relief.”

Prevention of bucked shins and other skeletal problems remains preferable to treatment of unsoundnesses. “Ways to help preserve bone and joint health in horses include ensuring a balanced diet and offering quality nutritional supplements that support musculoskeletal health,” Petroski advised.

“KER offers Triacton, a supplemental pellet that provides over 15 g of bioavailable marine-source calcium per serving as well as an array of other bone-building nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, iodine, manganese, and vitamins A, C, D, and K,” she said. “Research has shown that Triacton positively affects dorsal cortical bone density, which may keep horses from having shin problems.”

*Riquelme, G., J.M. Sepúlveda, Z. Al Ghumgham, et al. 2017. Neosaxitoxin, a paralytic shellfish poison toxin, effectively manages bucked shins pain, as a local long-acting pain blocker in an equine model. Toxicon. 141:15-17.