Foot Injuries in Horses

September 30, 2013 (published)

Foot injuries are quite common in horses. Many result from barbed wire and other sharp objects. Some of these wounds may be minor, but because of the important and susceptible structures of the foot, any foot injury can be potentially deadly. There is very little soft tissue covering the internal structures, and cuts only one-quarter inch deep in the correct area can enter a synovial structure, such as a tendon sheath or joint. Many cuts occur on the back of the pastern just above the hoof, and the digital flexor tendon sheath is just under the skin. Any laceration in this area can affect this tendon sheath. Once infection develops in this sheath, it is difficult and expensive to cure the infection. If a nail enters the frog at the right angle, it can penetrate the fluid-filled sac surrounding the navicular bone, or even the coffin joint

The most important thing to do if you have a horse with a foot injury is wrap the leg with nonstick pad, gauze and vet wrap, and call your vet. This can be an emergency situation and if you wait a few days to see how the horse does, it may be too late. Your vet will numb the area and examine the laceration closely to determine which structures are involved. If a synovial structure, such as a joint, is involved, it will be flushed. A technique called regional limb perfusion can be used to increase antibiotics in the joint. If a joint or tendon sheath is involved, most of these horses need to be at a referral center as they are critical care cases. General anesthesia may be required several days in a row to treat the wound correctly. The main point is that if your horse gets a cut around the foot, do not hesitate but call your vet.

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.