Monday, April 27, 2015

Navicular Disease Is A Serious Problem

By Alta Alexander

Having a horse founder is every horse owner's nightmare. This term refers to inflammation in the digestive system which can spread to the feet, causing damage and deformation of bones, tendons, and tissues in the hoof. This is one cause of navicular disease, but there are other factors that can result in this serious problem.

Founder is caused by too much rich grass or grain. It usually happens in the spring, when horses are turned out into lush pastures, or when an animal gets into the feed room and eats several days ration at once. Grass founder may take a week or so to show up, but the reaction to grain can happen in hours.

A continual state of overweight contributes to founder and makes horses more likely to develop inflammation and pain in their front feet. The animal will be reluctant to move and may stand with front feet extended, constantly shifting weight from one foot to another. Overweight also puts constant stress on the feet, especially the front ones which carry up to 75% of the horse's weight.

Ponies are more likely to founder on grass than horses, but all of the species is at risk. Owners must keep their animals at a proper weight, since putting a horse on a diet is difficult and can cause anemia. Exercise is important to keep weight down and to increase circulation to the feet.

Concussion is another cause of navicular separate from over-feeding. The result is the same, however - inflammation of the foot that can result in lameness that may be temporary or permanent. Horses asked to pound along on hard ground for extended periods or asked to jump over and over may develop problems with the tendons and bones in their feet. Heavier horses, like warmbloods, are especially susceptible. These horses are often exceptionally talented at showing and jumping, which makes their susceptibility to lameness a true tragedy.

Other causes that veterinarians and researchers think contribute to this kind of lameness include standing in a stall. Horses developed running free, and they need exercise to keep blood circulating properly to the feet. However, many race horses and show horses are kept confined for practical reasons, like not risking them in fields where they might be injured or not having the facilities to turn them out.

Improper shoeing or trimming can contribute to unsoundness. If the foot is not properly balanced, with the weight spread evenly from toe to heel, the bones of the foot may shift out of position over time. Long toes and heels allowed to slope too far under the foot are less than ideal, and this configuration puts strain on the tendon that passes over the navicular bone and connects to another bone called the coffin bone. If the coffin bone is pulled out of alignment, lameness will result.

To protect your horse, limit lush pasture and keep feed rooms securely closed. Make sure your equine friend doesn't get fat and has enough exercise to keep the blood flowing. Work on yielding ground and good footing. Learn how to tell if your farriers is doing a good job in keeping the angles of the leg and foot in proper alignment. Be careful not to train and compete too hard if you want a long and happy association with your horse.

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