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Hoof Puncture

A personal experience with a nail puncture wound to the hoof.

I have heard it said that if there is one nail in a hundred acre pasture, the one horse in that pasture will find it. Well--my horse, Annapolis was that horse. This particular feature was to have been about the renovations taking place at the barn where I board him. I suppose this is related really, although that feature will be postponed till a future article.

You only have to have meet Annapolis once to know that he will normally do anything for a carrot. So, one Saturday evening, when he took the carrot between his teeth and held it there without chewing, I knew something was amiss. I checked him over thoroughly but didn't see anything wrong. I went ahead and brought him in from the field and watched to see if he was lame, which he didn't appear to be. However, his head was held low and he seemed depressed. He has a very expressive face and gets little "worry wrinkles" over his eyes when something isn't right. He had his "worry wrinkles" that night.

When we got in to the barn, I put him in his stall, where he usually buries his face in his leftover hay. However, that night he just stood there, showing no interest at all in the hay or in the horse treats we offered. I waited to see if he needed to urinate, which he did as usual, then I brought him out and put him on the cross-ties.

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I decided to go ahead and groom him and see if he would perk up at all. I grabbed the hoof pick and cleaned his feet one by one. When I got to the third foot, the off-hind, as I drew the hoof pick through the thick clayey-mud, the hoof pick caught on some thing. I looked closer and saw the glint of metal--a nail!

Now here, I have to admit, I panicked somewhat. What I should have done was to do clear away the mud and inspect the nail, getting an idea of where it was, in which direction it was pointing and how far in it was. What I actually did was to immediately hook my hoof pick underneath the nail head and lever it out, flipping it across the barn aisle in the process! Then I proceeded to run to the phone to call the vet. Half-way up the barn I stopped and ran back to Annapolis (the phrase "chicken with its head cut off" comes to mind here). Coming to my senses a bit, I cleaned out the last hoof and also finished with the punctured one. I knew the vet was going to want to know where the puncture was and in my rush to remove the nail I really hadn't paid attention. As I picked up the injured hoof I saw quite a bit of blood on the ground. At this point, someone else offered to call the vet while I took Annapolis to the wash rack to clean out the hoof and soak it.

Visions of tetanus were dancing in my head as I walked him down the barn, leaving a drop of blood with every step. Actually the blood was reassuring, as I thought (and the vet later agreed) that it would have the effect of helping flush out any possible bacteria.

The Veterinary Examination--Part One
Dr. Aimee Beckham, from Katy Equine Clinic answered our call that evening. I have been using Katy Equine for a number of years and have always been pleased with their service. She began asking questions as she examined the foot -- questions to which I had no answers, such as "which way was the nail pointing, toward the heel or toward the toe?", "what was the point of entry?" and "how far in was it?". In my haste to remove the offending nail, I had failed to take note of these facts. It occurred to me I would not make a good eye witness in a police case.

In order to ascertain how far and in what direction the nail had gone, Dr. Beckham deadened Annapolis' hoof (not an easy feat when the hoof in question is waving in the air). Then she began to pare away at the point we thought the nail had entered. She determined that the nail had entered the hoof in the crease between the frog and the sole, and it had gone in from toe to heel, there was a small hole visible.

Dr. Beckham expressed concern that the nail might have damaged one of the internal structures of the hoof--the coffin bone, the navicular bursa or the digital tendon. And even if none of those structures were damaged, she explained that the nail may have transported bacteria deep into the foot. One course of treatment was to open up more of a drainage hole and to clean and pack the hoof, start antibiotics and hope that no internal structures were damaged.

The preferred course of action was for Annapolis to pay a visit to the clinic the next day so that a contrast agent could be injected into the foot and x-rays taken to determine the extent of any damage, which is what I opted to do -just for the peace of mind. Luckily, the barn owner offered to trailer us to the clinic the next day, as I have neither a horse trailer, nor anything to tow one with. Dr. Beckham gave Annapolis a tetanus shot, an antibiotic and some bute, to make him more comfortable. Once Annapolis' foot was packed and wrapped, we left him in his stall and headed home.

The Veterinary Examination--Part Two
Co-ordinating times with an on-call vet was a little tricky, but we finally headed over to the clinic in the afternoon.

Once again, Dr. Beckham soaked Annapolis' foot and then examined it. By this time Annapolis was getting thoroughly sick of having his foot messed around with and became quite awkward as she was trying to block it. A simple sedation took care of the problem and soon he was thoroughly relaxed and Dr. Beckham was able to resume her work. By this time Dr. Wooten had arrived to assist and between them they probed the nail hole and then injected the contrast agent.

We had to wait in the office while they did the X-rays, but very soon Dr. Beckham returned and told us that the good news was that the nail had not injured any of the internal structures she had been concerned about. I sighed with relief.

Of course, there is still a risk of infection, because of the damage done to the plantar cushion and Annapolis was given yet more antibiotics. In addition, I was given a course of antibiotics to take home with us and dose him with for seven days. In the coming days I will be especially watchful for any signs of lameness or discomfort which may signal an infection brewing within the hoof. I am soaking the hoof daily and then packing and wrapping it.

I mentioned at the beginning of this feature that it was related to the feature I was going to do on the renovations at the barn. The reason for that is that we were able to determine that the nail had been left by the contracters who were installing the new roof of the barn. I have to say that in every respect, the barn owners, Joey and Stacey Schultea, have been extremely helpful and of course, were very sorry about the whole incident. They have already taken steps to make sure that the contracters are more vigilant in clearing up after themselves. I'm being philisophical about the whole thing--Annapolis just seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on occasion, it was just bad luck. I just wish to thank Joey and Stacey for their help.

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