Common HVC Hoof Questions and Answers

By Deb Haines

The saying “No Hoof, No Horse” is very true! Healthy hooves are the foundation for everything you will want to enjoy with your horse. By following some simple management practices and being aware of common hoof ailments you can help keep your horse healthy and happy.

Questions and Answers

1) What is the best way to treat a hoof abscess ?

Dr. Alicia Norfi ….. Abscesses deserve much more respect than they get. The healthy and integrity of the very important structures of the foot are at risk. Here is what I do for an abscess – have seen too many go south without aggressive treatment. (They have 3 days with me!)
One of the most important parts is addressing the mechanics of the foot. Let’s say the abscess started at a quarter bc of excessive load due to the crushed heel syndrome in the foot, or at the toe because of the club foot syndrome, or wherever on the foot due to a simple puncture wound. Unloading that area of acute or chronic damage will help to increase perfusion (blood flow) and optimize healing. Let’s say it’s because of excessive load – If we don’t address and attempt to correct that, we still have the excessive load on that area of unhealth, and decreased perfusion.

A) Identify the region and attempt to establish drainage asap. This is either through the coronary band via hot animalintex poultice pads around entire CB secured in place with bandage material every 12 hrs; or investigate the terminal laminae for stretch or fissures and probe those areas to see if infectious material comes out – if it does then probe a little deeper to est a drainage tract. (This way I am staying away from opening a hole in the sole that will need to be treated). I don’t routinely soak the foot bc it ends up being a bacterial soak – if for some reason I need to soften the sole I use my hot animalintex poultice pads there too.
2) If this has not made the horse almost completely sound in 3 days, I get much more aggressive and XRay. The infection can spread to deeper tissues. It is preferable to not have this happen. Using radiographic guidance (and if that doesn’t help me then I use a venogram to specifically localize the optimal place) to create surgical drainage and possible infected tissue debridement I proceed with opening an area for that. O prefer to open the area through the hoof wall to avoid having to make a hole in the sole and use a hospital plate. If it has to be through the sole, then I create a hospital plate for daily antiseptic wound care with FIRM beta dine soaked gauze packing into the hole. Prolapsed sole corium is extremely painful so you have to pack that hole very firmly. Takes about 30 days for sole corium to grow good cornified sole so that the hole is no longer open to the sole corium. Additionally, prolapsing sole corium is an impediment to healing – strangulated sole corium can’t make cornified sole.

B) FIGURE OUT WHY THE HORSE HAD AN ABSCESS – could be as simple as a puncture wound, or commonly can be due to things like club foot syndrome and white line disease, excessive quarter loading from crushed heel syndrome, lamellar scar tissue, other areas of chronic underperfusion (of blood) or damage.

C) once I have identified the likely reason for the abscess I address the underlying cause, and apply the appropriate mechanics and podiatry to the foot, to unload the unhealthy area to create an optimal environment for nutrient delivery to infected tissues, via blood flow (perfusion). Another good thing about doing the venogram is that you can visualize this.

2) My horses hoof’s chip, Is this normal ?

Dr. Teresa Crocker……. The hoof is designed to exfoliate itself naturally. An appropriate diet, regular hoof care, good footing (dry, firm, free of urine and manure), and exercise are the best way to build good hoof. Many TB prefer to be shod (large bodied small footed). Topical products rarely provide the assistance you desire, but most do not do any harm either. The “fibrous bristles” are the individual horn tubules separating (horn is essentially fused hair).

3) How long do you wait before you call a vet, if horse has a bad abscess and using only 3 legs?

Dr. Karie Vander Werf …… Time to call the vet. It’s been long enough. Exam and possibly rads to ensure that’s really all you’re dealing with.

Dr. Teresa Crocker…. Any horse that is three-legged lame deserves The benefit of the Veterinary exam. Allowing an abscess to fester can mean deeper infection. You want a diagnosis. “Carving them out” is not in my opinion favorable, because you leave a huge deficit in the horn, but they can be localized and a small opening made, specifically packed to draw from that site. Three Legged means walking on three legs. That is one leg is lame and horse is walking on the other three. You can’t predict the course of an abscess in the hoof I.e. there is no normal… But there’s a whole lot of abnormal that is why you want a veterinarian to be involved .

4) All of my horses have hoof rings, what does that mean ?

Dr. Karie Vander Werf….. Laminitis rings are divergent – and the hoof will usually be dished. Horses can have rings for reasons such as fevers or changes in feed quality or stress. These rings will usually be on all 4 feet and will be symmetrical as the ones shown in the pic below.

Dr. Kris Anderson….. Laminitis rings can be on all four, but most often it’s only the fronts. I echo Dr. VW above – rings are actually quite common and typically do not involve laminitis at all.

5) What’s the difference between laminitis and founder?

Dr. Karie Vander Werf….Technically they are the same thing. Some consider laminitis to simply signify inflammation (-itis) of the laminae. So you can have laminitis without rotation. Some also would consider laminitis with rotation to be “foundered”. But really they are the same – one is clinical, one is colloquial.

Dr. Teresa Crocker …. Specifically if you have what we refer to as founder (rotation of the coffin bone) – you must have laminitis (inflammation and thickening, not always rotation)…but you can have laminitis (inflammation of lamina) with out founder (rotation of pedal/coffin bone).

I read they’re the same but some vets say they’re different. So, X-rays would be needed to decide the difference basically? Would the horse need bloodwork for IR or anything else?

Dr. Karie Vander Werf….. Again, there’s no difference. On a radiology report, it would read laminitis +/- rotation +/- sinking. If you were talking to a lay person, you could say the horse foundered – both mean the same thing. But yes, radiographs are necessary to determine severity and depending on the age of the horse, metabolic and endocrine testing would likely be warranted.

6) How do I tell if my horse has a canker ?

7) What is the home remedy for thrush?

Dr.Teresa Crocker …. Dilute bleach water in a spray bottle works best as a home remedy here. I have not found apple cider vinegar to be effective. The biggest adversary to thrush is a clean dry environment combined with regular exercise and hoof care. Control the environment and in general you will control the thrush ( dilute 1 to 10 )

Dr. Alicia Nolfi ….. This is from my advanced Equine Podiatry class notes from the International Equine Podiatry Center: Thrush can be successfully treated simply by cleaning up the foot with soapy, hot water and packing dry gauze in the deep confines to prevent air from getting to the deeper areas. I prefer to use a 50/50 solution of iodine and glycerin to treat thrush, as it doesn’t burn the tissue and quickly kills surface organisms.
If it is not treated with the above, we can try another type of treatment. If it seems like it is spreading or getting worse or you notice abnormalities of the coronary band and skin, let us know.

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