What is Navicular Bone Fracture?
A navicular bone fracture in a horse is a rare occurrence, but can happen. The navicular bone makes up a part of your horse’s foot and once fractured will need a long time to heal. If the injury is acute, symptoms include onset of unilateral lameness localized in the heel region. If it is chronic, you may only see lameness once the horse is at a trot. Either way, radiographs will need to be taken to evaluate the severity of the fracture. For treatment, stall rest and a special shoe will be recommended as well as other supportive therapies if desired. Prognosis of recovery is guarded in every single case of navicular fracture.
A navicular bone fracture can occur at any time but is usually a result of some form of blunt trauma. If your horse is displaying any type of lameness at a walk or trot, contact your veterinarian for medical evaluation.
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Symptoms of Navicular Bone Fracture in Horses
Symptoms of a fractured navicular bone may include:
- Acute onset of lameness
- Unilateral lameness
- Lameness localized in heel region
- Place foot toe first instead of heel first
Navicular bone fracture can be classified within the category of navicular diseases and syndromes, but the clinical symptoms and treatments are different than the rest of the typical diseases/syndromes. The fracture can be simple or comminuted and can affect the forelimbs and hind limbs. In most cases, the fracture affects the forelimb and is simple.
Causes of Navicular Bone Fracture in Horses
In most cases, a navicular bone fracture is caused by trauma such as kicking the stall or landing on a solid object. Another possible cause could be a secondary result of navicular disease leading to demineralization of the bone; this condition is rare but has been seen in several cases. Also, in some situations, it is believed the navicular bone fracture could be related to a pull of the suspensory ligaments within the area.
Diagnosis of Navicular Bone Fracture in Horses
Radiographs will need to be taken in order to evaluate the navicular bone for a fracture. The image will allow the veterinarian to assess the severity of the fracture and in how many places it is broken. She may want to take radiographs of an unaffected hoof to allow comparison of what is “normal” versus abnormal for your horse specifically.
An MRI is another type of imaging you can go for. This will require a specialized hospital and veterinarian to take and read the image, but it can offer a more in depth evaluation of the chances of recovery. This imaging can be beneficial if utilized a few months into therapy in order to assess the healing process and allow the veterinarian to makes changes as she sees fit.
Treatment of Navicular Bone Fracture in Horses
When treating a navicular bone fracture in your horse, there are multiple things the veterinarian will suggest. Your horse will need a specific type of shoeing to offer support during the healing process. The heel will be elevated with a wedge to cause the foot to be more upright. This will decrease the tension of the deep digital flexor tendon which lies across the navicular bone. The shoe may also contain clips on the medial and lateral aspects to stabilize the foot. He will need to keep this on for four to six months at minimum. Stall rest is another thing your horse needs to begin his recovery once the shoe is placed. This typically lasts two to three months and then he can be moved out to a small paddock for another two to three months.
The veterinarian will also recommend anti-inflammatory medications, possibly pain medications, and medications such as aspirin to promote blood flow. In some cases, a nerve block applied to the palmar region may improve or even resolve the lameness.
There is also a therapy treatment known as photobiomodulation, or laser light therapy that can help speed up your horse’s healing process. It is relatively new to the veterinary medicine world but has proved to be useful in many species of animals and in treating a large variety of conditions. This laser light emits diodes to stimulate cellular function. This will help the bone to regenerate cells quicker, improve blood flow to the area, offers an analgesic affect, and quickens recovery time.
Recovery of Navicular Bone Fracture in Horses
The severity of the navicular bone fracture will play a role in your horse’s recovery. You need to give your horse plenty of time to rest and heal. Prognosis is guarded for soundness; if you want your horse to maintain his athletic career, he may need a palmar digital neurectomy. However, even with this procedure prognosis of recovery is still guarded.
There are no specific reasons why treatments fail. The injury just happens to be in an area that has continual motion and instability which is not helpful in regards to healing bones.
Navicular Bone Fracture Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
What is the best shoe to put on a horse that has a broken navicular bone after initial treatment period where heel is elevated 12 degrees and gradually brought back to normal?
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