What is Quittor?
The horse’s hooves are made of keratin, which is a protein, just like human fingernails, only stronger. They have three sections: the toe, quarter, and heel. A horse needs healthy hooves to be able to function in any capacity. Many horses have been euthanized due to the inability to fix a damaged hoof that would cause unrelenting pain on a daily basis. That is why it is essential to see a veterinarian if your horse has an injured foot. The collateral cartilage is on each side of the hoof and has small blood vessels that are inadequate in healing injuries in this area.
Quittor is the name for necrosis (death) of the collateral cartilage in the foot, which is the flexible projection on the sides of the pastern. This condition almost always follows an infection of the foot or an injury. An infection should be noticeable by sudden lameness and pus from abscesses in the foot. Even though quittor is an uncommon condition, infection is the most commonly reported cause of lameness. However, if your horse has quittor, it can be hard to get rid of. Antibiotics may help if there are no open wounds. If antibiotics do not work within 14 days, the veterinarian will likely need to remove the dead and infected parts of the foot and place a drain to allow the infected material to come out.
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Symptoms of Quittor in Horses
Quittor is essentially the chronic inflammation of the collateral cartilage of the distal phalanx. The symptoms depend on the severity and cause of the quittor, but the most common are:
- Sudden lameness
- Draining tracts
- Pain in foot
- High body temperature
- Lack of appetite
- Swelling of the collateral cartilage
- Cartilaginous quittor is the death of the cartilage of the hoof from a direct injury to the lateral cartilage due to severe wire cuts or deep puncture wounds
- Cutaneous (simple) quittor is caused by bacteria getting into the foot through tiny cracks or small injuries due to injury of the sole
- Subhorny quittor is the inflammation that spreads from the hoof to the coronary band
- Tendinous quittor also includes the tendons, ligaments, and even the bones
Causes of Quittor in Horses
The cause of quittor is usually an infection caused by an injury of the collateral cartilage. However, there are other reasons that quittor can occur.
- Penetrating wounds or laceration
- Blunt trauma
- Damaged blood supply
- Deep hoof cracks
Diagnosis of Quittor in Horses
As with any injury or illness, you should see a veterinarian that specializes in horses (equine veterinarian). Your horse’s history is needed, which includes shot records, injuries or illnesses, type of work your horse does, the symptoms you have noticed, and abnormal behavior. Also, make sure to let the veterinarian know if you have given your horse any medication, whether prescription or over the counter. In order to give your horse a definitive diagnosis, a complete physical examination will be done, including body temperature, heart rate, breath sounds, respirations, blood pressure, palpations of various areas (abdomen, feet, legs), weight, height, reflexes, and body condition score.
In addition, the veterinarian will ask you to walk and trot your horse around to watch and assess the joints and muscles in movement. Radiological testing will include digital radiographs (X-rays) and maybe an ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI for a better look. The veterinarian may also decide to do some blood tests including bacterial and fungal cultures, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), blood chemistry panel, and complete blood count (CBC).
Treatment of Quittor in Horses
Treatment of quittor in horses depends on the cause of the condition and the severity of the injury. While minor infections may be treated with cleaning, antibiotics, bandaging, and stall rest, this does not usually work for most types of quittor.
Aggressive Antibiotic Treatment
Since a regular dose of antibiotics is not usually successful, an aggressive broad spectrum antibiotic therapy is usually called for in most cases. However, this is not commonly used in any type of quittor besides cutaneous quittor because of the depth of the damage and infection.
The best choice for most cases includes debriding the area of damage and infection. This involves cleaning and removing all the infected or dead tissue, which can be a complicated and lengthy procedure of searching fistulous tracts for abscesses.
Either cold or hot baths, depending on the stage of quittor, to determine where all of the area of infection are located, may be suggested. Continuing this for several days will help to slough off the necrotic tissues until only healthy tissue remains. Afterward, the wound should be packed with sterile gauze soaked in antibiotic ointment and wrapped with bandages.
In all cases of quittor, oral antibiotics will be continued for three to six months.
Recovery of Quittor in Horses
Your horse’s prognosis is good if you obtain treatment right away and if the damage is not too severe. You will need to continue the antibiotics and keep the bandages clean as instructed by your veterinarian. Return for follow up visits as needed.