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Hoof Problems = Euthanasia?

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  • Hoof Problems = Euthanasia?

    This may be a little long because I do have to give a little bit of history so please bare with me. I have a 24 year old breeding stock paint mare. I have had her since she was 11. Approximately two years or so ago, the barn owner managed to let her outside of her paddock and she ran around the whole property like a banshee. She ended up coming back with a stone bruise on the left front.

    Since that stone bruise, we have had abscesses with her off and on in the left foot. Very rarely, they would pop up in the right. Sometimes they would come once a month, other times she would go months without getting one and then POOF, one would spring up. Given the barn she was at, at the time, I attributed it to the environment as I lived in coastal Florida and it was often wet. While living here, her feet were done with just a natural trim (mustang roll). I had seen better feet but at the time, I did not know if it was just her feet, or it was a farrier thing.

    Fast forward to late last year and this year. I moved her to a new barn that is nice and does not have standing water after a rain. It is a new area so also a new farrier. When he first did her feet, I was amazed at how GREAT they looked. I mean, they NEVER once looked that great in the 13 years that I have now owned her. Shortly thereafter, she abscessed on me in the front left. It popped, she was good for about three weeks and as of right now, she has an abscess brewing in her RIGHT FRONT (which is very rare for her).

    At this point, I am unsure if she has just been trimmed incorrectly for years and now, that she is being trimmed correctly, it is a fighting battle. OR, if I need to stick with a farrier who does the mustang roll.

    The vet was out yesterday so we decided to go ahead and get xrays. I will post the link to the xrays at the bottom of this post. Long story short, he told me that she has pedal osteitis in the front right and on the left, which has been the problem hoof, she has pedal osteitis, as well as central P3 lucency (possible keratoma or infection). Given her history of abscesses, I am thinking more along the lines of infection. The vet says a lot of her coffin bone has been eaten away and even if we did do surgery (via his office, would run between $2500-3000) that he doesn't foresee a good outcome and recommended euthanasia.

    Even though she is 24, she is in great health otherwise. Shiny coat, good weight and when she doesn't have an abscess, she enjoys her life. Which is another thing I want to point out. The only time she is in pain is when she has an abscess. If her hooves are really that bad to the point that she needs to be euthanized, wouldn't she be lame even when she doesn't have an abscess? She was trotting around the pasture as if there was nothing wrong when she did not have an abscess.

    Could the "moth-eaten" coffin bone simply be showing where her numerous abscesses in the past have tracked? I just cannot imagine that a horse with a coffin bone infection (or a keratoma) would be trotting herself around in the pasture, with all her approximately 1200 lbs.

    Any suggestions, or advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. I was very upset yesterday and thankfully, I called my mother because she suggested that I get a second opinion. I have sent the xrays off to the University so hopefully will hear from them soon.

    I also do want to mention that when I kept on her feet every day, she didn't seem to get abscesses but when I had to go out of state, I had someone care for her that did not clean her feet as often and it seems she got more then.

    Here is a link to the xrays. Thank you very much in advance.

  • #2
    Do you also have pictures of her hooves? Does that left front have a large toe crack and flare like it seems to show in the rads?

    That left front looks really pretty bad in the radiographs and I would guess she's in more pain that you think, unfortunately. Horses are really good at hiding when they hurt. Have you run her through a formal lameness exam to confirm that she's sound when she's not abscessing? That she looks okay running in a field really doesn't mean she's not hurting.

    If she's truly sound when she's not working on an abscess, I'd likely consider pursuing surgery or further diagnostics, depending on how intensive and painful that path would be.


    • #3
      Euthanasia is never really a "wrong" option. The only time I might frown upon someone euthanizing a horse would be for pure convenience - i.e, perfectly sound, reasonable animal with a clean bill of health and rideable by your average rider that could easily find a new home and the owner decides they just don't like/want the horse anymore and are too inconvenienced by trying to locate a new home to be bothered.

      But outside of that, there are no "wrong" answers.

      In this case, I think "stick her in the ground" might be a bit extreme - you claim to have an otherwise healthy and normally sound horse that it sounds like you can afford to keep in her current state regardless of her usability, said horse has some findings that are are conditional/clinical signs but not a complete diagnosis (pedal osteitis is generally clinical - I've never heard a vet use it as a definitive diagnosis, it's usually due to another condition, not considered the condition itself) and this is the first vet you have gotten an opinion from.

      That said, horses can be very good at masking pain and recurrent abscesses are indicating there is some underlying issue that hasn't been addressed. And THAT said, I've seen horse's whose joints look like swiss cheese on radiographs but who are perfectly content and even ridden without problem. It really depends on the horse. You have to correlate the diagnostic findings with the clinical presentation.

      The fact that she's still abscessing with two different farriers makes me suspect that it might be less a trimming issue and more to do with the mare herself. I'd be looking for a second opinion at this point.
      Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.


      • #4
        I am not an expert in this at all, but I had a fotmer racehorse that constently was popping abcesses. He had a bone chip. It was surgically removed at Cornell, and it was a decent amount of money, but cured the abcesses. The vet at the time said they hold infection and it's better to just remove them. I am so thankful I did.


        • #5
          my computer won't allow me access to your x-rays. any chance you can post them on another site?

          I agree about getting at least a consult on the x-rays from a second vet. And I'd ask if there are less invasive ways

          of treating the infection than surgery? I know, ideally, they like to go in and clean up the infection and scrape the areas

          of inflammation but I'd want to know if this is the ONLY way to treat.

          You are the best judge of how your mare feels when she's sound. Doesn't sound like she's ready to throw in the towel.

          Let us know what your consult tells you. A friend's horse had pedal osteitis and it was definitely caused by poor trim.

          Her unskilled trimmer used to leave the heels real high and chop off the toes. Around here we called it the "quarter

          horse trim" cause that's what the trimmers who did quarter horses did.

          My friend opted for the surgery, horse healed well and remained sound. Keep us posted.
          "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


          • #6
            I am not a vet, but these are the two images of the LF that look quite concerning. Soybeanzz, I hope you don't mind that I posted them here.


            • #7
              Oh my. The rads look pretty awful. I went through something similar with my old trusty mare, and sparing you the details I will just say that old horses take a long long time to heal from things, and often times vets forget to remind us of that...


              • #8
                The x-ray shows what your vet says it does. A very damaged coffin bone. I'm sorry.
                A second opinion is never a bad idea, but it is not a minor issue.


                • #9
                  Yes, your vet is right. Those rads are quite bad. I can't imagine a horse being comfortable with that level of damage. That said, horses don't read rads. If the abscesses aren't so frequent that they are killing her quality of life, I'd personally schedule a full lameness exam for her as soon as she is abscess free. Let the vet jog her on hard and soft ground and flex her. Then have the vet block both front feet, and re-do each of the tests. You may find that she has a lot more pain than you think - or you may find that she's doing ok for now.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks for all of the replies. The vet from the University called, couldn't access the link so I just got done sending him the images so we will see what he seems to think.

                    I should emphasize that she is just a pasture pet and would only need to be pasture sound. When she is not blowing an abscess, she is fine. Her abscess that we are dealing with now just actually opened up today and already, she is putting her full weight on it and getting around much better.

                    While I am sure there is some pain when she does not have an abscess, given the internal structures, she is bright eyed and loves life, she doesn't seem miserable and in pain. I know horses are stoic but there is no body language that indicates she is in massive pain outside of the abscesses.

                    So, I guess it is a matter if we can get the abscesses from continuing how they have been. I think if we could get good control of that, she would be okay. That is where the trimming comes in but I don't know if it's best to not be so drastic - I mean, before her trims were mediocre and now I have a really great farrier so I am unsure if that is too much of a big change for her.

                    Thanks again for the information and advice. I will keep everyone updated on to how she is doing.


                    • Original Poster

                      Oh and for those that cannot view them, please see below.
                      Attached Files


                      • Original Poster

                        And last set
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          i think the idea to block and compare movement is a really good one. Take video while longeing so you can show someone impartial -- without intending offense, it's possible you are so used to her gait and demeanor (and in love with her!) that you are missing the signs. For a vet to recommend euth is a very important message you should take seriously. When it's just a borderline situation, in my experience vets wait for the owner to ask them and then they'll suggest it or at the least say it's not unreasonable.

                          Just on a side note, I do not believe in the concept of "pasture sound, unless the pain is specifically and only due to being under saddle. Just because the horse is not being asked to work does not mean we should let them be in frequent pain. Note I did not say constant pain, because I also don't agree with waiting for that point. I've made this suggestion before, but put a small pebble in your shoe for a full day and give some thought about how it affects your overall happiness. (And I *really, really* don't agree with waiting until they're dull and have the 1,000 yard stare of a horse that has given up. For a stoic prey animal whose every instinct is to keep going, to wait until they're so visibly miserable is just terrible. That, to me, is more about the owner not wanting to feel so bad/guilty/lonely vs the horse's quality of life.)
                          All IMHO, of course.


                          • #14
                            Soybeanzz, Thanks for providing the x-rays. Can you get good pics of both fronts from all angles and both sides?

                            Looks likes toes may still be very long and that alone can contribute to excess pressure internally. Also looks like some

                            retained bar that has overgrown sole (and that is also painful).

                            Yes the x-rays show abnormal pathology but based on your observation, when not abcessing the horse is still full of life.

                            So the goal would be to try and eleminate abcessing- which can be the horse's body trying to rid itself of excess debris

                            inside the hoof or pressure from excess material not trimmed or ongoing infection/inflammation in hoof.

                            Meanwhile, I'd try soaking a few times w/ White Lightening and vinegar cause you may have some white line disease

                            going on w/ the toe crack. I'd do both feet.

                            Maybe if you can get hoof pics we can help you get her even more comfortable.

                            Also I would keep this horse out moving about and not confined to a stall at all. Movement is good for healing hooves.
                            "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


                            • #15
                              oh boy. Very sorry you're having to think about this.

                              Full disclosure, I had a 10 year old who developed an infection in his coffin bone, and had I known he'd never be sound again, I'd not have put him through surgery and a couple of years of stall rest / rehab attempts.

                              Well, first things first, your big question: yeah, hoof problems can = euth, and this sure looks ugly to me. Bur if your perception is pretty good - and you've known this horse a long time - her current quality of life is pretty decent. It's not entirely clear when my guy's infection developed, but he was just NQR / intermittently unsound for months before it became acute and he was non-weight-bearing on it. That's when I'd have put him down, in hindsight. It was terrible.

                              I'd definitely get a second opinion. It would surprise me if your vet jumped to euth willy nilly, so if I were in your shoes I'd want to be sure my perception of quality of life was objectively accurate. Since she's a pasture pet, I wouldn't honestly do much in the way of diagnostics - wouldn't probably even put her on the longe - would just want to see her walking and trotting in the field.

                              Good luck with this. Sorry again.


                              • Original Poster

                                Hey guys. Thanks again for the ongoing advice and insight. It really is helpful.

                                I honestly didn't know her foot was capable of being "reshaped" I guess I could say. Fast forward to when I moved late last year and got a new farrier, her feet never looked so good. Everything was even on the soul and outer edges and while I am not expert as far as feet are concerned, it just overall looked like a well balanced hoof, what a normal hoof is supposed to look like. The heels were not flat on the ground, the toe was not long. Now, if you let her go past her 6 week schedule, the toe will grow out long and the heel will be flat to the ground.

                                Because of the last abscess in her left and then the one that sprung up in her right, she has had to go beyond her normal farrier schedule (he wanted me to get xrays first as well) so now her toe is pretty long, which is what you are seeing in the xrays.

                                I will take some pics today of her feet currently, I will try to find some pics of when my original farrier was still working on her as well.

                                I guess the one thing I really need advice on as well, is whether we should make such a drastic change in how she is normally trimmed. She had gone two months without an abscess before moving here. She moved here, I got her trimmed, she was very sore a few days after and then she popped an abscess, even though the trim looked beautiful (but way shorter and different than she is used to).

                                Either way, I know she needs a proper trim to help support the internal weakened structures but at the same time, should we be less drastic? I don't mind having the farrier out multiple times within her normal schedule if need be, I just want to do what is right for her so that we can minimize the chance of making her sore and blowing another abscess.

                                Additionally, in my research, I have read where years of incorrect trimming can actually cause degradation of the coffin bone. Along with the abscessing, I think it is very possible it has created this mess. Don't get me wrong, I do not blame my farrier - I should have been more proactive in making SURE everything was right and that was my screw up, I will beat myself up for it every day.

                                Anyway, the below photos were taken awhile ago while she was still under the previous farrier. I will take more of her feet today but again, they haven't been trimmed due to her abscessing but should be done next week.


                                • Original Poster



                                  • Original Poster

                                    This video was taken after she came out of stall rest about a month ago. She was still ouchy as the abscess was not totally healed up yet.



                                    • #19
                                      Vets don't recommend euthanasia willy nilly, but perhaps you should have him out after she's recovered from her latest abscess for further discussion.

                                      Very curious what photos of her feet look like. The radiographs really seem to show very long toes and a pronounced toe crack.

                                      How long has she been painful from this round of abscessing if it's thrown off her trimming cycle to this extent? The video was a month ago, but she's still been painful recently? How long was she on stall rest? That seems like a very long time to be so very painful If that video is representative of how she is for months at a time, then yes--euthanasia would be the kindest choice here.


                                      • #20
                                        you can not reshape the coffin bone...I have to say I agree with others that say those rads do NOT look good and the vet that euthanasia is a kinder option for her than surgery, but not until she is have more bad times than good.