The New Navicular Paradigm

Here’s what we know and are learning about defining, diagnosing, and treating this painful foot disease.

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The New Navicular Paradigm
MRI has allowed veterinarians to identify a multitude of tissues associated with what was historically called %22navicular disease%22 and diagnose exactly which are involved in each case. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

Here’s what we know and are learning about defining, diagnosing, and treating this painful foot disease.

If you look back through veterinary texts from the turn of the 20th century, you’ll see a perhaps familiar word: Navicular. Veterinarians used the term to describe a “disease process” within the tendon and/or bone of the navicular structures in the back third of the equine foot. The 1904 Practical Stock Doctor reads, “As a general thing, treatment is very unsatisfactory, usually alleviative only.”  

Indeed, identifying problems within a horse’s navicular structures is nothing new. Thankfully, our understanding and treatment of them have changed and advanced.  

Veterinarians have a profoundly more complex understanding of what structures have sustained injury, thanks to the evolution of diagnostic equipment and procedures. And using current palliative approaches—which range widely from regenerative therapy to bisphosphonate administration—they have found success keeping affected horses in work

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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