IRAP (or interleukin-1 receptor antagonist protein) therapy has been used in the treatment of joint disease for several years now. Interleukin-1 (IL-1) is a destructive enzyme produced in joint inflammation and leads to ongoing cartilage damage. Its antagonist protein is produced naturally by the body and can block IL-1, but in an inflamed joint IL-1 is present in much higher concentrations than the antagonist can block. IRAP therapy involves taking a small amount of blood from the horse and incubating it to allow the horse’s white cells to produce increased amounts of IRAP. The sample is then spun down in a centrifuge to allow harvesting of the IRAP rich fluid portion which is then injected directly into the affected joints to hopefully block IL-1, reduce inflammation and potentially allow cartilage regeneration. Each blood collection typically yields around 6 joint treatments and the extra doses are stored frozen for use later.

This is a treatment which has become commonplace over the last few years. At the Victorian Equine Group, we most commonly use PRP for tendon and ligament injuries. It involves taking a small amount of blood from the horse and processing it to harvest the portion containing the platelets. This portion contains high concentrations of growth factors which trigger and stimulate enhanced healing responses in the damaged tissue. The PRP is injected directly into the injured tissue under ultrasound guidance.

After making a diagnosis and providing guidance of the treatment of soft tissue injuries, our veterinarians are more than happy to provide you with suggested rehabilitation programmes with advice on caring for your horse whilst injured, the appropriate rehabilitation necessary, advice on alternative programmes and guidance as to monitoring progress during the recuperation period. We are fortunate to have many excellent facilities (such as water walkers and rehabilitation centres) in close proximity to both our Bendigo and Nagambie areas. A number of facilities in the areas also allow your horse to be spelled, or receive more intensive after-care, allowing them to remain under the care of our veterinarians if needed.

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy or “shock wave” has also become an everyday treatment regime. It involves the application of powerful sound waves which aim to increase circulation to the area, increase tissue turnover in the area, and thus aid healing. The procedure is performed standing, under sedation. The service is available at all locations and through of all of our veterinarians at the Victorian Equine Group. We commonly use it to treat suspensory ligament injuries, sesamoid injuries, chronic back and sacroiliac conditions.

Mesenchymal stem cell therapy is a relatively new treatment which is becoming increasingly popular. It is primarily used in horses for treatment of injured tissues which are known to have a poor or limited capacity for healing (principally tendons and ligaments). Stem cells are used on the basis that they have the potential to develop into different cell types depending on the environment that they are in. Autologous (using the horses own tissues) stem cell harvesting involves taking cells from the horse’s own bone marrow (usually from the sternum). This can then either be cultured in a dedicated laboratory over several weeks (to increase the number of available stem cells) and returned to us, or the raw bone marrow aspirate (containing a low number of stem cells) is then injected directly into the injury under ultrasound guidance.