Common Infections of the Horses Hoof
We have discussed the structure of the hoof but we need to talk a bit about what can infect the hoof or foot and ask what can we do about it.
Some of the most common infections of the hoof are what veterinarians call iatrogenic problems. What does that mean?
Iatrogenic in simple terms means we did it ourselves.
Some things that are commonly iatrogenic are infections or abscesses from nails placed too deep by the farrier. Although this does not happen often, probably once per thousand nails, it can lead to inflammation, lameness, and infection or abscess.
What to do about it? Best thing is remove the nail. Nine out of ten times that will solve the problem, cure the lameness and prevent the infection form worsening. Further treatment is hot soaks in salt water and antibiotics prescribed by your equine practitioner. Sometimes the Dr. will want to curette the infection to make sure it drains properly and does not spread or return causing further problems.
Nails in the foot from travelling down the trail. This is another common way to get an infection in the hoof. Stepping on a nail or wire while out and about on the trail.
The treatment is the same as for a shoeing nail except your veterinarian will first need to locate the site of the infection by thorough examination. He or she will use eye and tools to find the sorest spot and then most probably will curette or open the site to drain the infection. Again the treatment from there on is very similar.
A bruise of the sole or a “stone bruise” as it is commonly called can also lead to an infection as a result of the injured tissue or blood clot in any becoming infected by bacteria commonly traveling in the horses blood stream then locating in the site. Bacteria love to grow in dark, damp, “dirty” places. Meaning that a bruise or blood clot is a perfect culture media for an infection to start. Here again your Dr. is key to finding and treating the site properly.
It is important to know the veterinarian needs to do the treatment, at least at first, to be sure the follow up is proper and that the best drugs are used to ensure there is complete healing and the horse is able to return to work. Having the abscess dug out by a farrier or trainer is a good way to led into a serious problem if not treated properly by a Dr.
Other ways to get infections are not as common but include thrush or a sole surface infection and broken hoof walls which can lead to infections traveling up the hoof wall to the laminae and creating severe pain. One result of all these which we would want to avoid at all cost is laminitis or severe inflammation of the hoof wall which causes so much pain that some horses cannot stand up or walk. We will discuss Laminitis at another time. Proper trimming and shoeing are key to prevention.