Hoof Radiographs: More Than Meets the Eye

Something on the X rays looks a bit off—is it significant or of no consequence? It depends on what you find.
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Hoof Radiographs: More Than Meets the Eye
Preparing the horse properly and taking good quality X rays helps practitioners obtain as much information about a horse's feet as possible. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

Something on the X rays looks a bit off—is it significant or of no consequence?

The signs are subtle and they’ve come on slowly, but it’s become quite clear that your mare is lame. She shifts right to left and back again, like ocean waves lapping the shore, making it difficult to know exactly what hurts. Just about the only thing you can grasp from watching the changing tides of her lameness is which foot is affected.

You call your veterinarian, who conducts a complete examination that includes radiographs (X rays) of your mare’s foot. The resulting images are far from textbook, but which structural changes are causing her pain? And which ones are likely little reason for concern?  

“An X ray might be black and white, but interpreting those X rays and deciphering what ‘abnormalities’ are important and which aren’t are definitely filled with shades of gray,” says Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, of Anoka Equine Veterinary Services, in Elk River, Minnesota

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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