Foal Limbs And Feet Deformities

Flexural or angular deformities can be very shocking and even disturbing in severe cases, but appropriate veterinary care offers great hope for these foals.
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(Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from Understanding The Foal, a book by Christina S. Cable, DVM, Diplomate ACVS, and one of the series of books in The Horse Health Care Library.)

I’ll never forget the night I received a phone call from a very unhappy man about his three-day-old foal. He said the legs weren’t made right, and he wanted reassurance that euthanasia was the right solution. I couldn’t give him an opinion without examining the foal, but he said his veterinarian already looked at it and three days of physical therapy had not improved the problem. I eventually convinced the man to bring the foal into the clinic. Although the foal had trouble standing on its own, I thought we might be able to help him. The foal’s fetlocks and coffin joints were badly flexed, but we custom-made splints out of PVC pipe. This helped tremendously, but he needed a little more help, so we performed surgery to cut the check ligaments. This did the trick and the foal went home with new legs. The foal is perfect today, and the owner is very happy.

Flexural or angular deformities can be very shocking and even disturbing in severe cases, but appropriate veterinary care offers great hope for these foals. Flexural deformities can be classified into two categories. The first is flexor tendon laxity, which causes the neonatal foal’s fetlocks to drop. The second type is flexural contractures, which is flexion of any of the lower limb joints.

Flexor Tendon Laxity

Flexor tendon laxity usually occurs in newborn foals, but can occur in slightly older foals. This laxity can range from a slight drop in the fetlock to the fetlock(s) actually touch the ground. Flexor tendon laxity is common in premature or dysmature foals. This doesn’t necessarily mean that if your foal has lax tendons, that he/she is premature/dysmature. Mild laxity usually resolves on its own as the foal gets stronger and exercises–often within a few days to one week. If the laxity is more pronounced, then hoof trimming to create a flat, weight-bearing surface is very beneficial

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Written by:

Christina S. Cable, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, owns Early Winter Equine in Lansing, New York. The practice focuses on primary care of mares and foals and performance horse problems.

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