Use of Thermocautery for the Treatment of Lameness in Horses
June 3, 2021
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is opposed to the painful treatment of lameness using thermocautery (“pin firing” or “firing”) in horses, as the practice is ineffective and is inconsistent with evidence-based medicine.
- Thermocautery involves burning or freezing of 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.
- Thermocautery is a technique that has been used to address certain conditions causing lameness in horses, such as tendinitis. The skin over the affected area of the leg and some of the underlying tissue is burned or frozen using extreme hot or cold application.
- Thermocautery is a painful procedure and scientific evidence does not support its use as an effective therapy for promoting healing in lame horses. In some cases, this technique may delay healing (1-5).
- The Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines specifically discourages the use of “Pin Firing” for the treatment of lameness (5). The procedure has been labelled as a “mutilation” and “archaic” as it is ineffective and lacks justification as a method of treatment (6,7).
- 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.
- Hayward M, Adams D. The firing of horses; A review for the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee of the Australian Veterinary Association (2001).
- Jenson PW, Gaughan EM, Lillich JD, Bryant JE. Splint bone disorders in horses. Compendium 2003;25:383-389.
- 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).
- National Farm Animal Care Council. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines. Section 4.4 Lameness 2013:33. Available from: https://www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/equine-code#section4. Last accessed January 2021.
- Proceedings of the 51st British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, September 12-15, 2012. Birmingham, United Kingdom 2012:86.
- Van Weeren, PR. Tendon injury: The switch from curative to preventive medicine (2012). Veterinary Journal, volume 194, pp. 274 - 275.
(Revised September 2020)