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Understanding Hooves Injuries and Overall Equine Hoof Health

The hoof of your horse is in danger of being bruised, punctured, or fall victim to an abscess. Should the animal be injured in such a manner, it will be unable to be ridden or perform its work for a long period of time.
To properly understand the risks to a horseís hooves, it is imperative to understand the structure of the hoof: a flexible frog is surrounded by a hard outside shell, and the weight bearing surface of the hoof is covered by a hard sole. The tissue which makes up these components of the hoof consistently regenerates itself.

Hooves are easily bruised by an injury consistent with blunt force that will cause trauma to the inner tissue which will lead to the formation of pockets of blood or other fluids. Bacterial infections

 are a danger when a hoof is bruised, but in the even that such an infection does not occur, the bruise will resolve itself within one to four weeks. Lameness occurs when the hard outer shell is breached and the sensitive inner tissue is injured. What makes a puncture such a serious injury is the fact that the actual wound itself closes itself around the object that caused the injury which then in turn gives way to the likelihood of abscess formation. The deeper the puncture wound, the more damage the injury will cause. To this end, the injury caused by a sharp rock, while painful, will be less severe than would be caused by a penetrating nail, which may actually lead to an infection of the joint.

A vigilant horse owner will be able to suspect an abscess when an animal favors one foot or if a lower limb is swollen. If you believe that your horse may suffer from such an injury, it is well worth having a veterinarian test the hoof and treating it by opening the abscess to permit drainage of the accumulated fluids. Thereafter a soaking of the affected foot in hot water with Epsom salt may be indicated. Last but not least is the treatment of the wound with antiseptic agents and a bandage. To permit the horse to get back to its routine as soon as possible you may use a shoe and pad.

Should you examine your animalís hoof and find that the penetrating item is still lodged in the hoof, do not remove it but instead permit the veterinarian to radiograph the hoof to ascertain the extend of the damage. Of course, the best treatment pales in comparison to superior prevention, and by keeping your horseís hooves properly shoed, and its immediate living area clear of nails and sharp rocks, you will be able to keep your animalís feet healthy.

Read the next horse shoes article on Founder Hoof Disease.
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