Diagnosing Foot Lameness in Horses: Take a Systematic Approach

A systematic approach to examining the equine foot can help veterinarians identify causes of lameness more quickly and accurately.
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diagnosing foot lameness in horses
A positive hoof tester response should be repeatable, said Turner—so, if the horse reacts to the hoof testers in a single spot once, he should react every time the practitioner applies pressure. | Photo: The Horse Staff
A systematic approach to examining the equine foot can help veterinarians identify causes of lameness more quickly and accurately. To help other practitioners understand the process, Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, outlined the steps he’s developed to identify hoof-related pain and imbalances at the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California.

Turner operates Turner Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, in Stillwater, Minnesota, and has served as an Olympic, World Equestrian, and Pan American games veterinarian over his career.

“During your exam, ask every question three times,” he said. “You will get six different answers, so it’s important to find out before you begin what the goal of your exam is.”

Also, the veterinarian should collect a complete history from the horse’s owner. With an established goal (i.e., why is the vet examining the hoof, and what is he or she trying to find?), Turner described for practitioners his approach to examining cases of equine foot lameness

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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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