Wet Weather and Mushy Feet

Wet Weather and Mushy Feet

Tuesdays with Tony

We sure have been getting a lot of rain around here lately. As you know, we cats are not fond of rain, and now all my favorite sunbathing spots in the clinic parking lot have become puddles! Yeah, yeah we need the rain to grow grass, but the daily thunderstorms and high humidity can wreak havoc on your horse’s feet.

Horses evolved on dry, grassy steppes… not a lot of swampland or rain there, so their feet didn’t evolve a good water management system. The repeated wet-dry cycles (or sometimes just wet) we have here cause the tubules that make up the hoof wall to suck up water and swell. When they release that water, the tubules shrink again, leaving empty space between the inter-tubular material and the tubules. This repeated cycle causes hoof walls to crack and split, and the soles to erode away. If your horse has shoes on, it makes those pesky nails loosen way before the next scheduled farrier visit. Let’s talk about the various moisture-induced hoof conditions my docs are seeing a TON of lately, and what you can do about them.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Thrush

You know the smell. That rotting, nasty smell that you notice while picking your horse’s feet. You may also see some dark black or gray gunk oozing from your horse’s soft frog, or the deep sulci (clefts) around the frog. Thrush is caused by a mixture of several bacteria that love wet, oxygen-poor environments, like the deep grooves in your horse’s muddy feet. Horses aren’t usually very lame unless it gets really bad, but you’ll want to treat it before that happens. Luckily, with daily cleaning and application of a topical treatment, you can control thrush.

There are a variety of commercial products you can buy at the tack store to treat it. One of my doc’s favorite home-made treatments is a mixture of copper sulfate crystals and either wax or Desitin cream. My doc buys a toilet bowl wax ring from the hardware store (or Amazon) and uses bits of that mixed with the copper sulfate. It’s cheap, and it sticks to the foot like a cat to a tuna can. It’s important to pick out the feet so the treatment can contact the damaged tissue really well. Whatever product or treatment you’re using, apply it all over the frog and into the deep cleft in the center of the frog. Repeat once a day in the beginning, and as you get it under control, you can space it out.

Mushy Foot

This is a disorder that my docs see regularly here in Florida in times of wet weather. The entire sole gets soft, thin, and crumbly. You may see a depression just behind the toe where the sole compresses (it can even hold a small pocket of dirt). If you press the sole with your fingers, you may be able to slightly move it. Soles like that aren’t nearly strong enough to take the weight of a horse and protect the bones inside his foot. Mushy foot can be really painful for your horse and can look as bad as laminitis. 

During this season of frequent rainfall, your horse may need to spend some time every day in a dry area like a clean, bedded stall, to allow his feet some time off the moist grass. Remember that even if it’s not actively raining, a grassy pasture can keep the feet wet from the dew and rain it holds on to. You’ll want to pick your horse’s feet out every day.

The best topical treatment out there for “Mushy Foot” is daily application of Durasole (my docs carry it in their vehicles). Durasole contains drying and strengthening agents that thicken and harden the sole in a short period of time. Apply it every day until the sole is harder and the horse is more comfortable, then you should be able to decrease to 2-3 times a week. Work with your farrier to make sure your horse’s feet are trimmed on a 4-6 week schedule to promote healthy soles and hoof walls. If your horse is really sore, my doc may suggest he wear padded boots to temporarily cushion his feet until they start to improve. She won’t want him to stay in the boots for too long though, since the inside of a boot can be a moist environment as well.

Hoof Cracks and Abscesses

Another foot problem my docs see in this weather is cracked, crumbling hoof walls. As always, the first line of defense in keeping your horse’s hooves intact is regular trimming by a knowledgeable farrier. Too-long or unbalanced hoof walls put extra pressure on hooves that are already weakened by wet weather, and can cause those cracks to start or chunks to flake off.  Along with avoiding muddy pastures, be careful how often you wash your horse, as that’s just additional moisture he’s standing in.

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Abscesses are also common this time of year since soft, mushy feet allow easier entry for bacteria. A sudden onset of severe lameness is the most common presentation, but since that could mean other problems too, you’ll want to have my docs out to examine your horse. Also check out their YouTube video on how to make a hoof bandage so you’re prepared to manage this common problem!

Proper Diagnosis, Proper Treatment

If you suspect your horse may have any of these foot problems, give one of my docs a call for an exam. There are more serious conditions (such as laminitis) that can masquerade as one of these conditions, and an expert evaluation is highly recommended. You can even come find me here at the clinic for a “Cat-Scan”… but if it’s raining, don’t expect me to greet you outside!

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. If you want more, the humans have a podcast called Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and they have several episodes on feet. I highly recommend you check that out, which you can do over on the Podcast Page of my website, or you can subscribe to it on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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More Adventures of the Horse Doctor's Husband
Talk To The Foot

Talk To The Foot

Tuesdays with Tony

With the amount I talk about horse feet, you all must think I’m obsessed with them. Well, you kind of have to be when you run an equine vet clinic like I do. Horse feet are kinda important. It’s not like a dog, where they can get along just fine on 3 legs. Horses need all 4 of their feet to be in good working order just to survive. So today I’m going to teach you a few things you can look for to make sure your horse’s feet are going in the right direction instead of the wrong one.

 

Lameness

   Did you know that over 85% of lameness in horses originates in the foot? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen humans bring their horse in for “soreness in the stifles”, “hock injections”, or even a “broken shoulder” and the problem ends up being in the foot. The silver lining in this is the fact that foot problems can often be easily corrected by trimming and shoeing, which is an easy and inexpensive fix, relatively speaking. Believe me, you WANT your horse’s lameness to be in the foot. That’s a much better scenario than a bone cyst, severe arthritis, or a torn suspensory ligament.

    This should go without saying, but recurring foot lameness is usually an indicator that your horse isn’t happy with how he’s being trimmed or shod. Now, I’m not telling you to pick up the phone and call a new farrier. A great place to start is with X-rays of your horse’s feet. There is only so much a farrier can tell from the outside of the foot. Many times, the bony column within the foot doesn’t match what the hoof would lead you to believe.

    There is so much we can learn from just a single side-view of the foot. My docs can tell you if your horse has any signs of laminitis, such as rotation or sinking of the coffin bone (the bone inside the hoof). They can even tell you if these changes are acute (new) or chronic (old). They can determine your horse’s palmar angle, or the angle between the ground and the bottom of the coffin bone.

white line disease horse hoof

They can tell you if your horse has signs of coffin joint arthritis, or navicular disease (note: to get a full evaluation of the navicular bone, a few more views would be necessary). They can tell you how good the bony alignment is from the fetlock joint down to the tip of the toe. This hoof-pastern-axis should be a straight line, neither “broken-forward” nor “broken back.”  Your farrier may be surprised to see how much excess toe or how little sole your horse has. Additionally, he can get an idea of the side-to-side symmetry and balance of the foot from one more front-to-back view.

 

A Good Trim

 

Everything about horse feet starts with a good trim. You can see my Everything You Need To Know About Horse Feet blogs for tons of information and pictures. Here’s the basics: the heels should be brought down to the widest point of the frog. Yes, brought down. Do not leave bad-quality heel on. You can’t “grow better heels” on a horse. They’ve got what the good Lord gave ‘em and you can’t fix it, you just have to manage it.

Alignment side equine hoof demo at equine hoof care semina

From there, your farrier should trim the foot as they normally would. When finished, the widest part of the hoof should be halfway between the toe and the heel. If it isn’t, the trim is adjusted until it fits this ideal. If it can’t be….well, that takes me to the next section of this blog

 

Shoes or no shoes

 

I hear it all the time: “My farrier just wants to charge me more so they said my horse needs shoes.” Nope, not true. Farrier myth busted. Every farrier I met doesn’t want to put shoes on a horse until they absolutely need it. However, when the hoof has been trimmed to the best of your farrier’s ability, and the mechanics are still all messed up, a shoe is needed to fix what’s messed up.

If your horse has really weird feet, your farrier is definitely going to want an appointment with our Docs and the x-ray at the same time. This will get your horse the best possible shoeing job. Heck, your farrier and my Docs get so much information from foot x-rays that we recommend them for every performance horse, every year.

No hoof, no horse, is the truest thing ever said about a horse. Be sure to use my Docs as the great resource they are to help your horse have the very best feet they possibly can!

 

Now be a good human. Scroll down a teenie, tiny bit further and subscribe to my blog. All the cool humans do it. And if you listen to the podcast my Docs do, which is another cool human trait, you can listen to more about horse feet. The more you know, the better care you can provide for your horse.

 

Until next week,

 

~Tony

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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The Ideal Hoof

The Ideal Hoof

Tuesdays with Tony

I’m going to revive a classic Tuesdays with Tony here: The April 2015 Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Horse’s Feet. I’ll post a link to this at the bottom, don’t worry! I hear the Docs talking about feet a lot so it must be important. My understanding is that the ideal horse hoof shape is simple to understand, but not easy to achieve.

Who thought that was a good idea??

Equine Leg Anatomy from Springhill Equine hoof care seminarYou humans have a thing you do with your middle finger. Horses one-up you: they walk on theirs!  That’s right. The coffin bone is the tip of your middle finger. Feel the bones moving down your finger, back toward your hand, and you have the equivalent of the short pastern, long pastern, and cannon bone.  You’ve got a navicular bone too, but only in your thumb. This whole ‘walking on one finger’ thing is why horses have so many lower leg problems.

What’s a foot supposed to look like?

Walking on one finger means the hoof has to be balanced just right. If it isn’t, too much pressure gets put on one part of the anatomy. Excess pressure leads to badness. Here’s where ‘simple, but not easy’ comes in. On a freshly trimmed hoof (that’s important and I’ll tell you why in a minute), a line drawn at the widest part of the hoof should have 50% of the hoof in front of it, and 50% behind it.  A line drawn down the center of the hoof from toe to heel should have 50% of the hoof on the inside, and 50% on the outside. In the pictures I’m using as an example here, one half of the foot is trimmed, and the other half isn’t. That will help you see the differences.  

proper trim sole demo at equine hoof care seminarproper trim sole long equine hoof care seminarNow why did I say in a freshly trimmed foot? Take a look at where the heel is located on this hoof. It’s nearly ¾” farther forward on the untrimmed side, when compared to the trimmed side. That’s not because the farrier did it wrong 5 weeks ago, that’s because the foot grew forward. It’s what they do.

heel bulb demo at equine hoof care seminarAfter assessing the bottom of the hoof, pick up the leg. Put your hand underneath the end of the cannon bone, and let the hoof hang. Notice there are no human hands in this picture. That’s they way it’s supposed to be! When you hang the hoof like this, a line drawn down the center of the pastern and heels should be perpendicular to the bottom of the hoof.

My horse’s hoof looks nothing like this

There’s two reasons your horse’s foot doesn’t look this:

1. Conformation.

2. The Farrier.

Number 1 is WAY, WAY, WAY more common that number 2!

Crooked-legged horses end up with crooked feet. Your farrier’s job is to try to compensate for what Mother Nature did a less-than-ideal job of creating. For instance, if there’s more foot on the outside, your farrier will more aggressively trim and rasp this area to keep the foot from getting too off-kilter. However, sometimes the foot is too far off or the pressures of the job are too great. This is where shoes become necessary. A shoe will help your farrier compensate by preventing excess wear on parts of the foot, and allowing for support on other areas. Think that’s easy? There are approximately 1.3 million types of shoes (this may be an exaggeration) for horses. That alone tells me it ain’t easy!!

Got foot questions? Send in pictures of the bottom of your horse’s foot, a picture from the front, and one from the side taken at ground level, and my smart Docs will tell you what they see. To expedite the process, please include 1 bag of Temptations Savory Salmon cat treats with written instructions for the whole bag to be given to me (my minions think it’s appropriate to give me two or three treats at a time, which is ridiculous). You can also come and deliver them in person (and ask questions) at our Behavior Seminar this Thursday! I’m hosting the seminar here at the Clinic, so make sure you come scratch my ears. Oh, and learn about horse behavior, that too. That’s Thursday, October 5th at 6:30pm, right here at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry. Just look for the big black cat!

Links to original posts:

Part 1: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Horse’s Feet

Part 2: Everything You Need to Know About Your Horses Feet

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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Tuesdays with Tony – Mushy Feet

Tuesdays with Tony – Mushy Feet

Mushy Feet

My, we have been getting a lot of rain around here lately! As you know, cats are not too fond of water. As if that isn’t enough of a reason to be concerned about the rain, daily thunderstorms plus high humidity equals muddy pastures; a recipe for disaster when it comes to your horse’s feet! Please, allow me to give you a quick rundown of “what-to-use-when” for the various moisture-induced hoof conditions we see most commonly.

Thrush

You all know the smell. That rotting, nasty, sticks-in-your-nostrils-for-hours smell that you notice while picking your horse’s feet. You may also see some dark black or gray gunk oozing from your horse’s soft frog, or deep lateral sulci (clefts). Thrush is caused by a bacteria that loves wet, oxygen-poor environments, like the deep grooves in your horse’s muddy feet! Luckily, with daily cleaning and application of Kera-Mend Thrush Paste (available through our Docs), you will have the infection well under control in no time!

Mushy Foot

This is a disorder that our Docs see regularly here in Florida in times of wet weather. The entire sole gets soft, thin, and crumbly; to the point that you can make it bounce with your thumb! [Cats don’t have thumbs, so I can’t say I’ve tried this myself.] The best treatment out there for what the Docs call “Mushy Foot” is daily application of Durasole (available here at the clinic). Durasole contains drying and strengthening agents which actually thicken and harden the sole in a remarkably short period of time.

Hoof Cracks and Crumbles

Another problem we tend to see with feet in this ugly weather is cracked, crumbling hoof walls. As always, the first line of defense in keeping your horse’s hooves intact is regular trimming by a knowledgeable farrier. However, there are a few things you can try in the interim to help your farrier out. First of all, stop washing your horses feet! Yes, you heard me right. You know what one thing is worse for feet than standing in a muddy pasture all day? Standing in a muddy pasture, having mud washed off with a hose, allowing feet to dry out, then returning to the muddy pasture. It’s actually the wet-to-dry-to-wet transition that is really bad for hooves! If your only turnout option is in a wet environment, help your horse out with some Kera-Mend Hoof Dressing (my minion Beth in the office can order it for you). Apply some to the coronary band daily (because, as we all know, hooves grow from the top down). This product not only promotes healthy hoof growth, but it also protects the hoof from that wet/dry transition. The secret ingredient is lanolin, which is the waxy substance produced by sheep to waterproof their wool! Maybe if cats had that stuff, we wouldn’t hate the water so very much.

Proper Diagnosis, Proper Treatment

If you suspect your horse may have any of the aforementioned foot problems, please have one of our amazing Docs out for an exam. There are more serious conditions (such as laminitis) that can masquerade as any one of these conditions, and an expert evaluation is highly recommended. If you would like to have any of these handy-dandy hoof products in your tack trunk, come find me here at the clinic, and I will point you in the right direction… but if it’s raining, don’t expect me to greet you outside!

Until next week,

Tony

Part 2: Everything You Need to Know About Your Horses Feet

Part 2: Everything You Need to Know About Your Horses Feet

Part 2: Everything You Need to Know About Your Horse’s Feet

So they made me do a little work between blogs but here is Part 2 of my exclusive report from the All You Need to Know About Your Horse’s Foot Seminar.

When you hear ‘break-over’ you should think of thunderclouds parting and the sun coming out, angels singing, a drink of water when you are really thirsty.  It’s that important.  Horses have multiple break-overs, but we are going to concentrate on the one at the front of the foot for now.  A break-over is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s the point at which the hoof comes off the ground during movement.  The moment of break over is the hardest on the hoof structures.  Every bit of that force is trying to tear the foot apart.

A good trim, according to the guidelines I talked about in Part I, will set up a good break-over.  This point should be about ½” to ¾” in front of the tip of the coffin bone.  Wait a minute… how is my farrier supposed to know where the tip of the coffin bone is located?? I don’t think they come equipped with x-ray vision!  Most of the time your farrier will set the break-over at a point about ½” to ¾” in front of the tip of the frog.  Sometimes the foot doesn’t seem to be doing what your farrier expects.  X-rays of the foot will help your farrier see what the bones are doing inside the hoof.  X-rays let us see if there is arthritis, injuries, or laminitis going on which may require special shoeing.

Visual Aids!

Let’s look at some feet and see if you can spot the problem.  First up:

Bad Shoeing 1

This guy definitely doesn’t have his heels back to the widest part of his frog and that’s with the shoe on.  And if you look at the branches of the shoe you will see they aren’t even.  The shoe is twisted on the foot. His break-over is also too far forward.

Next up:

bad shoeing 2

A line drawn down the center of this foot definitely won’t give you half inside and half outside.

This shoe…..Unless half this shoe was on one foot and half was on another foot it doesn’t make sense.

bad shoeing 3

Now for the fun stuff.  What happens when the foot has been trimmed and we can’t get the alignment the way we want it? We put a shoe on it!! So in answer to the barefoot question.  Your horse can go barefoot if two things can happen: the foot can be balanced with a trim, and the work the horse is doing doesn’t unbalance the foot faster than it can grow to compensate.

breakover shoe

This shoe is an extreme example of break-over manipulation.  It starts with a regular shoe.  Bar stock is then welded to the inside.  Then the shoe is nailed to the foot.  The end result is a shoe that allows this horse to break-over anywhere he wants.

arab shoeing

This horse is an example of the opposite end of the spectrum.  This foot has been allowed to grow long to bring the break-over forward but notice the principles have still been applied.  Now this foot is extra long since this horse is due to be shod but notice the foot is balanced and well supported.  We can manipulate feet to make gaits we find appealing but it must be done correctly or we jeopardize the horse.

flip flop

Ever get tired of your young horse pulling shoes? Or have a horse with really sore heels?  This shoe, affectionately called the flip flop, fully supports the foot but is very forgiving of the hind foot grab.  Most short coupled young horses go through a shoe pulling phase until they learn to wear shoes.  It’s normal and should not be blamed on your farrier.  Sore-heeled horses need some support since they hurt too bad to not have a shoe underneath them, but metal shoes can be too hard on them.  The heels on these shoes offer them soft support.

tendon support

This shoe is an example of the compromises we have to make sometimes.  This horse has a torn deep digital flexor tendon.  This injury will heal best if we can take some of the tension off the tendon.  A shoe like this helps reduce that tension but it has moved that pressure to the heels.  Notice how the heel is curving under.  This shoe can’t be used long term without causing significant hoof problems.

A quick note on some common Florida problems.  This beautiful abscess is secondary to all the very wet weather we have been having.  Using durasole, thrush buster, keratex hoof hardener or something similar on the foot will help it handle all that excess moisture.  Sometimes no matter what we use on the foot they just stay way too wet.  In that situation shoes may be the answer if only temporarily.

abscess

Along with abscesses, thrush is a common problem.  The cattle mastitis ointment Today applied to the affected areas daily for a week and then every few days for three weeks will help clear it up.  We have also recently started using a product called Keramend on some really really really bad thrush horses and have been very pleased with the results.

Our horses rely on a good foundation to stay happy and comfortable.  I know I learned a lot about feet at this seminar, but Dr. Lacher and the entire Springhill Equine crew are happy to talk feet anytime!  This is Tony saying may your food bowl be full and your litter box clean!!

Part 1: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Horse’s Feet

Part 1: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your Horse’s Feet

This is Tony reporting from the Hoof Seminar on April 11, 2015.  I am sure this will be a multi-part blog since I doubt I will be able to get all the information typed up without hitting the food bowl at least once so stay tuned if I stop mid-sentence.  I will be back after refreshments….

Let’s start with the very true saying: “No Hoof No Horse.”  Much like “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” this saying sticks around because it is so true.  Our horse’s take off, land, turn, and stand on their feet. And it’s a pretty tiny foot on the end of a long stick so little changes make huge differences!

A bit of anatomy will help us all get our bearings for some good discussion later.  The lower leg is made up of the cannon bone, sesamoids, long pastern, short pastern, navicular bone, and coffin bone.  The most important thing to remember here is that we are manipulating the hoof since that’s the part we can change but it has to align with all those bone and tendons and ligaments above.

Equine Leg Anatomy

Moving on to alignment.   Tires on your car have to be aligned a certain way so they wear evenly.  Hooves aren’t much different.  By following certain guidelines the hoof will fly through the air, land, and take off again in perfect alignment with the rest of the limb above, the other three legs, and the big body it’s moving along.  Think about it: a horse trotting creates 1,500 pounds of pressure and that’s at the trot!  It’s really important to get alignment right.

OK starting with the view from side…….A line drawn down the front of the hoof should lay against the entire hoof wall and front of pastern.  A line drawn down from the center of the fetlock joint should lay against the heel bulbs. In a perfect world the fetlock and hoof wall line would intersect at the middle of the fetlock joint but that is where the word guideline comes in.

Alignment side equine hoof

Now pick up your horse’s foot.  When it is freshly trimmed the heels should be at the widest point of the frog.  This is really, really, really important.  Many of us where taught that heel should never be taken off.  Like many things we heard in our youth, things changed.  The heels must be at the widest point of the frog.  Next draw a line across the widest part of the foot and a line at the toe.  Half the foot should be in front of the widest point and half behind.

proper trim sole

Draw a line down the center of the foot long ways and half the foot should be to the outside, half to the inside.

proper trim sole long

Set the foot back down and look at it from the front.  A line drawn down the center of the hoof should divide the hoof in half with 50% to the inside, 50% to the outside.

proper shoeing DP

Hold your horse’s hoof up and let it hang from your hand.  Draw a line down the center of the heels and again this should divide the hoof in half.  This line should also be perpendicular to a line drawn across the heels where they will meet the ground. I hope you are noticing a pattern here.  The foot should be symmetrical!

heel bulb

Notice none of this involved touching the sole with a hoof knife!  By allowing our horses to form all the sole they want we help them keep good cushion beneath their coffin bone!  Horses will naturally wear off any sole they don’t need so we don’t have to do that for them.

All this work has set us up for a discussion about the perfect break over, which is our real goal but you will have to wait until next week since  I hear the full food bowl and clean litter box calling.  Stay tuned.  I will finish writing soon!