What is Joint Ill?

What is Joint Ill?

Posted by Scone Equine Hospital on 31st Oct 2018

Joint ill is a term for infection of the joint and possibly adjacent bone. If the infection spreads to the bone either side of the joint, it is osteomyelitis (infection of the bone). There is commonly more than one joint involved and this is often preceded by septicemia. It is unusual to occur in foals older than 30 days old.

Any time a foal presents with lameness and fever, septic arthritis (joint ill) is the first problem to rule out. Waiting for just 1 day can many times make a serious difference in the eventual outcome.

Causes of Joint Ill include:

Environmental factors – overcrowding, poor sanitation, poor ventilation

Inappropriate umbilical disinfection

Problems with the mare – placentitis

Foaling difficulties

Clinical Signs include:

A lame foal should be assumed to have joint ill until proven otherwise

Hot, painful and swollen tissue around the joints

Depressed foal that is off suck


Veterinary clinical exam

Taking a sample of joint fluid for analysis and culture (arthrocentesis)


Cultures sample is best before antibiotics begin to determine the best antibiotics to use

Treatment includes some or all of the following:

Antibiotics are the primary treatment (possibly intra-articular but definitely systemically)

Some may need iv fluids and other support if systemically unwell and not nursing well

Arthroscopic joint lavage with antibiotic treatment

Regional limb perfusion with local high levels of appropriate antibiotics

Exercise restriction

Anti–inflammatories to control pain

Broad spectrum antibiotics continuing after initial aggressive treatment period

Gastro protectants (ulcer protection) while being treated

Whilst prognosis is generally fair with this condition, failure to treat promptly can result in a poor outcome with ongoing complications. Always contact your veterinarian immediately if you are concerned.


Please Note: *CUSTOMER SELF DECLARATION* By purchasing any prescription product from the SEG Online store, you acknowledge and agree the following is true and accurate.

  1. I confirm that my horse was examined by a Scone Equine Group veterinarian who prescribed this medication for use in the horse’s treatment on the basis of their diagnosis of the horse’s condition.
  2. By confirming this order, I agree to use this prescription medication in the manner prescribed, on horses under my care and for which I have the authority to act under veterinary direction.
  3. I have read and understood that I need to seek immediate veterinary advice if my horse’s condition changes or deteriorates in any way whilst being treated with this prescription medication.

NB: If there is a particular prescription product you need which is not on this list, please contact your SEH veterinarian directly.