What is Crooked Legs (Foals)?
Deviations of the limbs are commonplace during the first few months of a foal’s life. Many of these cases can be corrected with stall rest and proper hoof trimming, however, severe cases may require more specialized methods of treatment. This can include the surgical insertion of plates, screws, or wires to stabilize the bones as well as the use of specialized horseshoes or braces. Treatments to correct these issues should be started as soon as possible as some corrections are only fully effective if they are started in the first few weeks.
Although crooked limbs in foals is a common disorder, it should be evaluated by a veterinary professional to ensure that no confirmation problems extend into adulthood.
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Symptoms of Crooked Legs (Foals) in Horses
The fact that the foal’s legs are crooked are generally visible with the naked eye and can sometimes appear quite alarming. Other signs of limb deviations that you may observe can include:
- Asymmetrical gait
- Bone collapse
- Excessive wearing of the hoof wall
- Heat at joints
- Inflammation of growth plate
- Joint swelling
- Stretched ligaments
- Angular limb deformity - Angular limb deformities, also known as angular limb deviations, are misalignments of the leg joints in foals, particularly common during their first few months of life
- Immature cuboidal bones - This is a disorder in which the bones are not fully developed that is mainly seen in premature foals; foals with this disorder should remain recumbent until the bones have developed or should use splints to avoid future damage
- Tendon and ligamentous laxity - This is when the tendons or ligaments are too loose to keep the joints properly stabilized; this condition often corrects itself quickly, but when the foal is unable to stand or if the weakness is not resolved in a few days from birth medical intervention may be required
- Tendon contracture - This occurs when the tendon is not long enough to allow full movement of the joints; this disorder can cause the foal to have difficulty standing and requires medical treatment
Causes of Crooked Legs (Foals) in Horses
Several situations can lead to crookedness in the limbs of foals; these can include circumstances like:
- Disproportionate growth
- Excessive exercise
- Inflammation of the placenta
- Maternal colic during pregnancy
- Maternal iodine deficiency during pregnancy
- Perinatal tissue trauma
- Poorly development of ligaments or tendons
- Premature birth
- Injury after birth
- Twin pregnancy
- Unbalanced hooves
- Unbalanced nutrition
Diagnosis of Crooked Legs (Foals) in Horses
A visual inspection is likely to show that a problem exists, and all premature foals should have x-rays taken of their hock and carpal areas to ensure that immature cuboidal bones are not an issue. However, more investigation and further testing are needed to get more information about the seriousness and source of the deformity. A complete physical evaluation will be done, including the manipulation of the limbs by hand and an assessment of the foal’s gait. The manipulation of the foal’s joints will help to reveal if any swelling, heat, or pain are radiating from the site, which may give an indication that the disorder was initially caused by an infection or by physical trauma.
Physical injury and trauma can occur in foals even before birth, particularly in pregnancies with twins. Radiography images will help to uncover many critical elements in deciding on the best treatment plan for the foal. Factors such as the shape of the bone, the shape and size of the growth plates, and the condition of the bone are typically revealed this way. Ultrasound technology may also be used in order to evaluate the health and positioning of the tendons and ligaments, which are not visible by x-ray.
Treatment of Crooked Legs (Foals) in Horses
Treatment depends on the age of the foal, the severity of the disorder, and the underlying cause of the disease. The treatment plan for many of these disorders starts with controlled or restricted exercise restriction or stall rest, particularly with problems like immature cuboidal bones. More severe issues will require more advanced medical treatments. Disorders that cause crooked legs in foals should be addressed as soon as possible.
Some of the treatments used to straighten the legs, such as trimming of the hoof wall or adding glue on extensions, are only particularly useful for foals that are three months old or under. This age is even younger for ponies or miniature horses as their growth plates close earlier than in their larger counterparts. Some of these disorders, particularly those related to contracted tendons, may require surgical procedures to achieve straight limbs, which may include the temporary insertion of screws, wires, and metal plates.
Recovery of Crooked Legs (Foals) in Horses
The prognosis for foals with crooked limbs will depend on the type of deformity, the severity of the malformation, the age of the foal, and the underlying cause. When surgery is required, the leg will need to be monitored daily to evaluate it for swelling, heat, pain, or lameness. The patient will need to schedule additional visits to the veterinarian. Any screws, sutures, or wires will require removal, and supplementary x-rays will be necessary to evaluate the progress of any treatment plan. A few major complications are possible with surgery, including bone infections and overcorrection from growth retardation implements not being removed in time.