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Frequently Asked Questions - Lameness & Pathology
Below is a list of some common questions we have been asked about various lameness issues over the years, as well as general responses to each question. If you have a questions or need assistance that is not offered on this page or any other page on our website, please feel free to use the "Contact Us" option in the Support menu.
Q: What do I do if my horse goes acutely lame?
A: The best thing you can do to render first aid to a lame horse will apparent acute foot pain is to tape Styrofoam support pads to their feet. The dense Styrofoam pads will help to support and protect the coffin bone, and usually stabilize the horse's condition until a veterinarians can see the horse and determine a diagnosis.
In general, cases of acute foot pain that comes on suddenly and affects both front feet (or hind feet or all 4) is many times a laminitic or founder episode. In these cases, immediate application of Styrofoam in the first 24 to 48 hours will greatly minimize the long term effects of the laminitis event. Even if after the vet sees the horse and determines that it is not laminitis or founder, the Styrofoam pads will still typically offer some relief and have little chance of doing any harm. You can find more on this procedure in the "New Hope for Soundness" book and in our Printable Guides section of the website.
In cases where there is an acute onset of lameness and it primarily affects 1 foot, then there are 3 common possible causes:
1) The horse has a close or hot nail. This would be the first suspect if the horse was recently shod, say within a week or two at the most. If this is the case, you may contact your farrier first to have them rule out the possibility of a close or hot nail.
2) If it has been more than a few weeks from a shoeing appointment, or the horse is barefoot, then the next possibility is that of an abscess. Abscesses can occur for many reasons and in most cases are non-problematic, however they can be very painful. Puncture wound, after effects of laminitis, sole or bar pressure necrosis, etc. are all possible causes. If the acute lameness is noticable one day and gradually becomes worse over a 2 to 3 day period and the horse becomes unwilling to place the foot on the ground, then it is most likely an abcess. It is still recommended to contact your vet and/or your farrier to have things checked out and administer treatment if deemed necessary. Typically the abscess will release in 3 to 5 days from the initial onset and the horse will usually find immediate relief.
3) Unlike an abscess, a fractured coffin bone or navicular bone usually comes on sudden and stays extremely painful for many days. The horse typically won't want to bear weight or put their heel down. It is important in these cases to get radiographs as soon as possible to confirm so that treatment can begin right away. The longer it goes without treatment, the increased chance you have of the bone healing with a step or deviation.
Styrofoam Use - How Long?
Q: How long should I keep my horse on Styrofoam before putting on a more durable treatment system?
A: There is no need to be in a hurry to get the horse off the Styrofoam pads. As soon as the horse is so active that you can no longer keep the pads on his feet, then he is probably ready for a system that can better serve his activity level. In cases of lamintis or founder, we typically say that once the horse has reach a grade 2 lameness or lower and is off pain medications, then they are probably ready for a more long term treatment package. (Usually 2 weeks as a rule of thumb.)
Q: How do pain medications affect the treatment process of lameness?
A: The advice of what medications and length of treatment is generally best prescribed by your veterinarian. However, in our experience medications like Bute will often mask or alter the pain response of the horse that can be necessary to gauge when treating things like laminitis, founder and navicular disease effectively (at least from a farrier standpoint). When treating horses using the Equine Digit Support System or Steward Clogs, we rely on the horse to guide us when making adjustments for comfort. Pain medications can cover up some very important responses that are needed to figure out what is really going on inside the foot and how to best treat the horse at that time. We try to recommend resticting or minimizing the use of pain meds at the time of shoeing, but you should always discuss these options with your veterinarian first. Use of pain meds like Bute can be helpful at the onset of acute lameness issues like laminitis, and are often used during the Styrofoam phase of treatment. If at all possible though, our best results are seen when they are reduced or eliminated by the end of the Styrofoam phase and before the shoeing application.
Use of Rails & Frog Inserts
Q: When using the Equine Digit Support System, how will I know when to change the Wedge Rails and Frog Inserts?
A: The nice thing about the EDSS is that you can add to or remove the components whenever you want, or more importantly, when ever the horse wants. Because the parts are made to be interchanged without removing the shoe and pad, you have the ability to adjust the different elevations to find the comfort zone of the horse. Listen to them and you will know when the parts need to be changed. A good rule of thumb for adjusting the rails has to do with how the horse lands. If the horse lands slighly heel first, the rails are probably fine where they are, and the frog insert is usually best at about the same level, or just slightly higher. If the horse lands toe first, then a taller rail may be indicated. If the horse lands heavy heel first, then it is probably time to lower the rails until a slight heel-first landing is seen. In most cases, the frog insert usually works best when at the same level or slightly higher than the rails, however every horse is different and you may have to play around with that to find their comfort level. If you have questions during the treatment using the EDSS, please don't hesitate to contact us and we can help sort out any details: (719) 372-7463