CVMA-ACMV

Use of Thermocautery for the Treatment of Lameness in Horses – Position Statement

October 12, 2016

Position

(Formerly known as Firing of Horses)

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is opposed to the painful and ineffective treatment of lameness using thermocautery (“pin firing” or “firing”) in horses, as the practice is ineffective and is inconsistent with evidence-based medicine. 

Summary

  • Thermocautery involves burning the skin over the affected area of the leg and some of the underlying tissue using extreme hot or cold application. 

    Thermocautery is a painful procedure. 

    Scientific evidence does not support the use of thermocautery as an effective therapy for promoting healing in lame horses.

Background

  1. Thermocautery is a technique that has been used to address certain conditions causing lameness in horses, such as tendonitis. The skin over the affected area of the leg and some of the underlying tissue is burned using extreme hot or cold application.
  1. Thermocautery is a painful procedure and scientific evidence does not support the use of firing as an effective therapy for promoting healing in lame horses. In some cases, this technique may delay healing (1-4).
  1. In Canada, The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines specifically discourages the use of “Pin Firing” for the treatment of lameness (5).
  1. Outside of Canada, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons considers all forms of firing to be “mutilations” as they are ineffective and/or lack justification as methods of treatment and should be discontinued (6).


References

  1. Silver IA, Brown PN, Goodship AE, et al. A clinical and experimental study of tendon injury, healing and treatment in the horse. Equine Vet J Suppl 1983;1:1-43.
  1. Hayward M, Adams D. The firing of horses; A review for the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee of the Australian Veterinary Association, May 2001.
  1. Jenson PW, Gaughan EM, Lillich JD, Bryant JE. Splint bone disorders in horses. Compendium 2003;25:383-389.
  1. Equine Code of Practice Scientist’s Committee. Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines: Review of Scientific Research on Priority Issues. Lacombe (Alberta): National Farm Animal Care Council, 2012.
  1. National Farm Animal Care Council. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines. Section 4.4 Lameness 2013:33.
  1. Proceedings of the 51st British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, September 12-15, 2012. Birmingham, United Kingdom 2012:86.


(Revised June 2016)