Veterinarians use casts to help stabilize and treat a variety of equine foot and leg disorders, from lower limb injuries to severe foot infections to chronic laminitis cases. The latter condition, however, is one of the most challenging to treat—when the leaflike laminar tissues that suspend the coffin bone inside the hoof wall detach, allowing the bone to displace and rotate.

Vernon Dryden, DVM, CJF, APF, of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Ky., has had success treating complicated laminitis cases with foot casts, and he discussed proper cast management at the 2013 International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Nov. 1-3 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Chronic laminitis cases with distal displacement of the pedal (coffin) bone, or ‘sinkers,’ are very difficult and carry a poor prognosis," Dryden began. "Foot casts have been shown to be effective in aiding the rehabilitation of these cases."

Dryden said there are several ways foot casts can benefit these cases, including:

  • Stabilizing the entire foot;
  • Decreasing the individual movement of the hoof capsule and the displaced bony column, making them move as one unit;
  • Reducing shearing forces on the laminae;
  • Providing inner hoof wall support and ease of breakover in all directions; and
  • Allowing the horse to choose the most comfortable standing position as a result of the dome created on the bottom of the cast.

Dryden then reviewed proper cast application with the audience, emphasizing the importance of trimming the foot first, applying the cast in a