What is Nail Prick?
Despite the best intentions of your farrier, problems can arise with your horse’s hoof due to a misaligned shoe or nails while attaching the shoe if the nail protrudes down close to or into the sensitive lamina of the hoof. There is a fine line between driving the nail deep enough to hold the shoe securely, and going too deep causing problems. If left unchecked, your horse may develop infection and lameness. Make sure you choose a competent farrier who will take care to ensure accurate nail placement and keep a close watch on your horse after shoeing for early detection.
Caused by the misplacement of the nails while your horse is being shod, this can cause problems within the sensitive part of your horse’s hoof.
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Symptoms of Nail Prick in Horses
- Lameness due to the pain when your horse puts weight on the hoof
- Infection of the hoof area
- Abscess development
- Reluctance to exercise
- Pus drainage in severe or advanced cases
- Bruising and in some cases infection
- Nail bind is where the farrier has put in a nail that goes too close to the sensitive laminae of the foot; this produces a pinched-like feeling or pressure on the lamellae when the horse puts full weight on the hoof and can result in infection after a day or two and in lameness
- Nail prick is where the nail has penetrated into the sensitive laminae of the foot; this usually causes immediate lameness and is very quick to diagnose
- Both conditions can cause infection and inflammation
Causes of Nail Prick in Horses
- Inferior design of the horse shoe
- Nails that have deflected away from where they should be
- The nails may be too large or too long
- Your horse may have thin hoof walls due to deficiency in its diet
- Flaring hoof walls
- Your horse may be a bit nervous and move during the nailing causing deviation and damage
- Faulty nails
Diagnosis of Nail Prick in Horses
Your horse will go lame almost immediately if the nail has pinched or penetrated the sensitive tissue whereas if the nail has just gone too close it may take a few days until the lameness occurs.
The hoof may feel warm if infection has set in, and on removal of the shoe, blood may ooze from the nail hole. Your horse may react to pressure around or on the hoof area especially if using hoof testers to find the offending nail. By feeling the outer and inner fetlock you may be able to detect an increase in the digital pulse of the affected foot. Your veterinarian will do this test but it is a useful technique for owners to learn. In advanced cases, there may be swelling in the lower limb. Only in severe cases will there be pus drainage evident at the coronary band. But in all case, your veterinarian will soon pick up the classic symptoms and be able to assist your horse to make a full recovery. Blood work will be done additionally to evaluate the extent of the infection.
Treatment of Nail Prick in Horses
If the nail prick is discovered right away, then it will be an easy fix for the farrier. Often the whole shoe is removed and if infection is a concern, flushing the hole with hydrogen peroxide to ensure no bacteria has got in is the easiest solution. When discovered after a few days, treatment will require the whole shoe to be removed and your veterinary specialist may need to open the nail hole to allow the infection to drain away. This process may cause a reaction from your horse as pulling out the nail may cause a lot of pain, so be careful of the hind legs if your horse decides to kick out in response to the pain.
Your horse’s hoof may need to be cleaned and the hole can have a packing of a iodine soaked cotton placed within it to prevent further infection. Another solution could be to apply a poultice boot to your horse’s hoof, these boots can be reused many times and provide a healthy way to treat the hoof. A bandage may need to be applied and once the lameness has gone, the hoof can be reshoed. If your horse hasn’t had its tetanus shot, now is a good time to do it.
Recovery of Nail Prick in Horses
If caught early, the prognosis is good as long as there has been minimal damage to the hoof area. If infection has crept in and the veterinarian had to clean, cut the hoof or open the nail hole to allow for drainage, keeping your horse’s hoof clean and allowing it to heal may take a few days. As suggested above in treatment, a poultice boot may be the way to go allowing for healing of the hoof and keeping it free from bacterial infection. Tetanus shots may be required if your horse has not had one recently, and an antiseptic bandage on the hoof area for a few days will allow the hoof to heal without picking up new infection. Usually, these injuries heal quickly allowing your horse to get back to a normal life within a few days.
Nail Prick Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My horse had a nail prick while getting shod. He was first given tetnus. A week later he was diagnosed with a fever of 105 degrees and also dehydration. He was given flunixun and saline for next two days and when we looked at the hoof there was abscess also found. We opened the wound with an abscess knife and cleaned with hydrogen peroxide. We kept him on "ds" penicillin and oxytetracycline. It was also given pantoprazole and flunixun. It was soaked in magnesium sulphate and alom water. The swelling also started coming down. This was given for 5 days and we stopped the flunixun. Today the horse has a swollen foot in the coronary band till the tendon joint. Please suggest what to do
In severe cases like this where there is swelling to the coronary band, an examination would be required because if there is an infection that has moved up the laminae, serious complications may occur; surgical resection may be required to prevent any further spread or complications. Usually, when identified immediately, flushing the hole out with hydrogen peroxide and applying a poultice along with systemic antibiotics and tetanus shot is usually adequate. A Veterinary examination is required at this stage. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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