Preventative Foot Care

Preventative foot care is a concept wherein the hoof is monitored for subtle changes that deviate from the assigned norm over time and are amended where necessary. An important concept to grasp here is that a lot of these horses going through the PFCP are clinically sound and may not have one thing wrong. The idea is to practically space the evaluations out so that they are not a burden financially, but do them often enough to where things don’t get out of hand. Drastic changes are obviously more easily documented, since baseline comparisons highlight and accentuate recent changes or events. Several different parameters can optionally be measured and monitored, with number and frequency being dictated by individual case severity, doctor preference, and/or owner concern. Laminitic horses, for instance, might be checked on a much more frequent interval than the routine baseline evaluation, which might be annual or semi-annual, depending on the case. Evaluations can range from basic, which would at a minimum be lateral radiographs of the front feet, and optionally to include the rear. A more complete evaluation would include DP (front view) and lateral radiographs of all four feet plus digital photos and measurements of side, front, and solar views... all four feet again. In a world of subtleties, documentation is critical in nabbing drifts from what is desired and encouraging or directing therapy where improvement is the goal. Apart from the various measurements, etc., a thorough evaluation would also take into account body condition score (unnh... how fat is yo critter), metabolic concerns (i.e. insulin resistance, EMS or equine metabolic syndrome, cushing’s disease), nutrition, conformation, and hoof size/body weight ratio; research (Dr. Doolittle’s, I presume)has found that horses aren’t comfortable with their body weight exceeding 78 lbs./sq. inch of cross-sectional hoof area (...”does this saddle make me look fat?”).

In addition to monitoring subtle changes, one of the most helpful aspects, should crisis arise, is having an accurate set of baseline radiographs available for comparison. One of the most well-known hoof ailments, laminitis, was previously only viewed through the radiographic prism of whether or not there was any tipping or rotation of the coffin bone, and if so , then to what or how many degrees. Today we look at it in an entirely different way, with so many more parameters being evaluated, hopefully long before there is any rotation. Once the case got to a stage of rotating or sinking, recovery to the degree of being ridable, if possible, was more likely to be at least 12 months in the waiting and treatment. Now we know that as little as 2 to 3 millimeters of swelling of the dorsal lamina of the hoof wall, prior to any rotation whatsoever of the bone, is highly indicative and most likely to be laminitis. Appropriate treatment at this point (due to a timely and accurate diagnosis) makes all the difference in the world _ convalescence could be comparatively nothing. In addition we also have the luxury of venography (check out the short page on venograms for fun) which further helps us to evaluate blood supply The point here is that for us to be able to see 2 mm of swelling or displacement, we had to know that the normal, healthy HL thickness (combined horn and laminar thickness of the dorsal wall) was originally 2 mm less_ i.e. we had to have baseline or repository data.

The Palmar angle is defined by the slope of the ground surface of P3.

Here we have lost medial/lateral balance (above)

L refers to combined horn (hard shell of the hoof) + lamina
(between the horn and bone) thickness in the photo above

CE distance is from the top of the coronet to the extensor process of P3