What is Keratoma?
The tumor begins to form when there is something that alters the normal division of the keratin cells. The tumor begins to increase in size between the outer hoof wall and the pedal bone. The tumor has a keratin core.
Keratoma is a benign tumor that affects the keratin cells that form the hard, water resistant hoof capsule that protects the sensitive parts of your horse’s foot. Keratoma is a rare condition. The keratin cells are located in the coronary band at the top of the hoof. It forms a wall that continuously grows down from the coronary band.
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Symptoms of Keratoma in Horses
While keratoma in horses is benign, there are still health issues associated with it and a proper diagnosis is essential maintaining a good quality of life. If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to determine what is wrong and set up a treatment plan.
- Slowly progressive lameness
- Abscess around the hoof
- Behavioral changes due to pain
- Changes in the contour of the hoof wall and sole
- Abnormal white line on the hoof wall
Causes of Keratoma in Horses
The exact cause of keratoma in horses is unknown. It was originally thought that an injury caused a keratoma to form. However, there are several documented cases where no injury or irritation has occurred. Inflammation of the coronary band is also a possible cause of a keratoma.
Horses of any age, size and gender are susceptible to developing keratomas. It is important to evaluate your horse’s hooves often since any horse can develop keratomas.
Diagnosis of Keratoma in Horses
Generally, your horse will exhibit mild lameness that comes and goes. That lameness will progressively worsen as the keratoma grows. If you notice intermittent lameness in your horse, speak with your veterinarian and have a thorough physical examination completed.
Once a physical examination is completed, x-rays will probably be taken to examine the tumor and view any damage that might be occurring to the pedal bone. An MRI can also be used to accurately define any abnormal tissue and the extent of the damage. These imaging tools will make it easier for your veterinarian to decide on a treatment plan.
Your veterinarian may also decide to take a biopsy of the tumor. The biopsy will give confirmation of the presence of a keratoma. In order to take a biopsy, your horse will need to be given a sedative or in some instances be completely anesthetized.
Treatment of Keratoma in Horses
Once it has been definitely concluded that your horse is suffering from a keratoma, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan. In most cases, your veterinarian will want to work with your farrier to ensure that the hoof is not so severely damaged that recovery is not possible.
Surgical removal of the tumor will be necessary to ensure that the contours of the hoof wall do not become more deformed. A section of the outer hoof wall will have to be removed so that underlying keratoma can be easily accessed. Depending on exactly where the keratoma is located, your horse may be given local anesthetic that will numb the foot and the horse can remain standing. In other cases, a general anesthetic is necessary and the horse will be completely out and unable to stand. All abnormal cells of the tumor must be removed to prevent the keratoma from growing back.
Post surgery, your horse will require that the wound on the affected foot be kept clean and a support will be put on the foot to stabilize the injured hoof, usually this means a bar shoe will be put on. Once the wound has healed, your veterinarian and your farrier will work together and use hoof reconstructive material to pad the cut outer wall until the hoof wall grows back down. It can take between 6-12 months for the hoof wall to grow back out.
Your horse will be put on antibiotics to fight any infections that might occur post-surgery. Be sure to give all medications as directed and consult your veterinarian if you have any questions regarding side-effects or dosage instructions.
Recovery of Keratoma in Horses
After your horse’s surgery to remove the keratoma, post-surgical care instructions will be given by your veterinarian. Your farrier may also have special instructions for you as well.
About 30 days to 45 days after surgical removal of the keratoma, light exercise is generally acceptable. However, always consult your veterinarian before changing any part of your horse’s routine.
Your horse should make a full recovery and resume normal activities once they have healed from surgery. There have been rare instances where the keratoma has grown back because all of the abnormal cells were not gotten rid of during surgery.