Background Compensatory lameness is common in horses and evaluation can be challenging.
Objectives To investigate patterns of compensatory movements in clinical cases with fore- or hindlimb lameness before and after diagnostic analgesia.
Study design Retrospective clinical study.
Methods Multiple limb lameness of 367 horses was characterised by type (push-off, impact or mixed), limb (fore- or hindlimb in predominant lameness) and side (ipsi- or contralateral in concurrent lameness) using a body-mounted inertial sensor (BMIS). Diagnostic analgesia was performed until the percentage improvement of the vector sum in forelimb lameness and the mean difference of the maximum or minimum pelvic height (PDmax or PDmin) in hindlimb lameness was >= 50%. Linear mixed model and post-estimation of effects were performed by contrast command with multiple comparisons adjusted by Bonferroni method. Correlation of pre- and post-analgesia of all head and pelvis asymmetry parameters was tested with Spearman's rank correlation.
Results Improvement in vector sum per mm after diagnostic analgesia in forelimb impact lameness positively correlated with decrease in PDmax in contralateral mixed lameness (0.187 mm, r = .58, P < .05). Improvement in PDmin per mm after diagnostic analgesia in hindlimb mixed and PDmax in hindlimb push-off lameness decreased vector sum in ipsilateral forelimb impact lameness by 0.570 and 0.696 mm, respectively (P < .05), with no positive correlation.
Main limitations A variety of cases with inhomogeneous distribution of lameness patterns was investigated retrospectively, therefore, it is impossible to distinguish between true multiple limb lameness and compensatory lameness in this clinical material.
Conclusions Various asymmetry patterns of concurrent lameness were seen in horses with naturally occurring primary forelimb impact lameness with contralateral compensatory hindlimb lameness with a mixed component being the most common. In horses with hindlimb lameness, compensatory movements were seen in ipsilateral forelimbs, mostly as an ipsilateral impact lameness during straight line trot.