What are Hoof Problems?
Solar abscesses occur when an infection infiltrates the sole of the hoof. This can lead to lameness. Many times, a solar abscess is the result of some form of trauma, bruising to the sole or a foreign body within the sole.
Thrush is a foul smelling black exudates usually located around the frog. An exuded substance is a mass of cells and fluid that has seeped out, especially inflammation. Thrush can cause lameness. Wet and/or soiled conditions can cause thrush.
Many horses will suffer from hoof cracks that do not usually cause lameness; however, they can be painful and cosmetically unappealing. Many veterinarians and farriers will be able to patch hoof cracks until the hoof grows out, usually between nine and twelve months.
It is very common for hoof problems to occur in horses. Inexperienced farriers can cause your horse to have problems with their hooves as can solar abscesses, thrush and hoof cracks.
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Symptoms of Hoof Problems in Horses
You should be doing a physical examination of your horse’s legs and feet daily, watching for any changes that could signal that there is a condition that needs medical attention. If you notice any changes that are occurring to any of your horse’s hooves, contact your veterinarian and your farrier for an assessment. The best way to treat hoof problems is to catch them early and seek treatments quickly.
- Sudden onset lameness
- Foul smelling, black discharge
- Warm or hot hoof
- Elevated heart rate
- Shifting weight off of a leg
- Noticeable cracks or holes in the hoof
- Standing, pointing or resting a leg
- Swelling near the base of the hoof
- Bruising near the base of the hoof
- Brittle hoof wall
Causes of Hoof Problems in Horses
Hoof problems in horses can occur for a number of different reasons. The most common cause of hoof problems is direct trauma to the coronary band. Improperly trimmed hooves can also cause your horse to experience hoof problems.
Many horses that are exercised on hard tracks can develop hoof problems as can jumpers who rap the poles with their hooves. Many of these hoof problems can be easily remedied as long as they are treated quickly and aggressively. Your veterinarian will set up a treatment program and should work closely with your farrier to ensure successful recovery.
Diagnosis of Hoof Problems in Horses
Your veterinarian will do a full physical examination of your horse and will thoroughly go over your horse’s legs and hooves. Once the initial examination is completed, your veterinarian may clean out the affected hoof. Hoof testers may be used to reveal a localized area of intense sensitivity to pressure.
If a shoe is present, it may need to be removed so your veterinarian can clean the bottom of the hoof. A hoof knife may be used to carefully open any abscesses found to allow for drainage.
Once your veterinarian has made their diagnosis, they may give you care instructions if the hoof problem is minor. If there is extensive damage done to the hoof, your veterinarian will probably want to work closely with your farrier to ensure that your horse’s hoof is being stabilized and well cared for.
Treatment of Hoof Problems in Horses
Once your veterinarian has determined which hoof problem that your horse is suffering from a treatment plan will be put in place. For more severe cases, your veterinarian will work with your farrier to ensure that your horse has the best care and the best chance of a full recovery.
Stabilization of the Hoof
Your veterinarian and your farrier will work together to stabilize the affected hoof. In some cases, this means bandaging it, in other cases it means creating a contraption that will completely immobilize the hoof.
If your horse is suffering from hoof cracks, your veterinarian and your farrier will repair the cracks using various techniques. This can include using screws, wire or even polymer and acrylic patching material.
Your horse may need to have the affected hoof soaked one to two times per day. Solar abscesses will need to soaking to help alleviate swelling and pain. Soaks will also help to draw the pus and infection out of the abscess.
Topical creams may be prescribed for a variety of hoof problems. Oral and/or injectable antibiotics will be required when an infection is present within the hoof. All medications should be administered as prescribed and if you have any questions about your horse’s medications, contact your veterinarian.
Any horse suffering from hoof problems will require stall rest. Your veterinarian will give you a timeline regarding your horse’s stall rest and when to begin light exercise. Keep your horse’s stall clean and also provide thick bedding for your horse’s comfort.
Recovery of Hoof Problems in Horses
Your horse’s recovery will be determined by the exact hoof problem that is afflicting your horse and also the treatments that were needed. A full recovery can be achieved if treatment was sought quickly and the condition was treated aggressively. It is important that you check your horse’s legs and hooves daily for any changes to keep any injuries or infections at bay.
When hoof problems are found, it is important to follow the veterinarian and farrier instructions completely. If you have any questions regarding your horse’s hoof care, you should direct any these concerns to your veterinarian and/or farrier.