Ask the Vet: Lameness

Answered by, Terri Van Wambeke, DVM, Oregon City, Oregon

Question: I have an aged gelding that I think had a sprained fetlock as it was slightly swollen and a bit warm to touch. He could barely walk at all. Within a few weeks, he has gotten better but now the hoof is a little bit bigger than the rest and the sole of the hoof has sloughed off. What could this be?

Answer:It sounds like your horse may have developed a subsolar hoof abscess. Often with hoof abscesses, the entire limb will become swollen and warm, there will be heat radiating from the limb and the foot and there will be an increase in the digital pulses to that foot. Subsolar abscesses can make horses extremely lame. They can become so lame that they will not want to bear weight on that limb or use it very tentatively. Once the abscess ruptures the horse becomes more comfortable and that region of the sole will slough off or there will be a drainage hole present with a soft sore spot around it.

I think it would be a good idea to have your veterinarian come out and take a look at the leg and evaluate the hoof to rule out something more severe such as a puncture wound to the foot or a laminitic event. Your vet can also evaluate the fetlock joint at the same time. It is always best to diagnose and treat limb injuries early on. That will give your older gelding the best chance of living out along and comfortable life. Wishing you all the best!

Question: If a horse has one or more white hooves or a white and black striped hoof, is there proof that the strength of that hoof is compromised?

Answer:There is no difference in the structure of a pigmented versus a non-pigmented hoof. The layers of the hoof wall are the same structure and thickness regardless of the color of the hoof.

Question: Would you recommend a hoof conditioner for a long weanling (10-months-old) to maintain healthy hooves?

Answer:Most young horses do not need a hoof conditioner to maintain healthy hoof wall. Of course, this will depend on the environment the horse lives in and the nutritional status of the horse. If you are having specific problems with your horse’s feet, I recommend you consult your farrier and your veterinarian to determine what steps you can take to improve hoof wall quality. Good luck with your young horse!