The equine foot is a tough structure which helps protect the sensitive structures beneath, and the hoof wall is similar to the human fingernail. Puncture wounds to the foot can range in significance from none at all to a severe life threatening injury, depending on the site and depth of penetration of the wound. Puncture wounds usually occur on the sole of the hoof although can sometimes penetrate the walls.
What causes puncture wounds?
Puncture wounds occur due to penetration of the hoof and surrounding structures with a foreign body such as a shoeing nail, wire or glass. Other causes of penetration include sharp flint stones, needles, splinters of wood, etc. The severity of the injury is determined by the depth and site of penetration.
Generally speaking, the deeper the penetration the more likely it is that an important structure is affected. For example if the wound penetrates to the pedal bone, it can cause a bone infection and may even fracture the bone. The most serious injuries are those to the back half of the foot. These may penetrate the navicular bursa and could even involve the coffin joint and cause a joint infection or damage to important tendons. This type of injury is very serious and can be life threatening.
What if my horse has a puncture wound?
If you discover a puncture wound to your horse’s foot, you should immediately contact your veterinary surgeon for further advice. Do not necessarily remove the foreign item if it is still present since it may be beneficial for your vet to radiograph (X-ray) the foot with the foreign body in place to gauge the extent of the penetration. Follow your veterinary surgeons advice. It is important that an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is administered as soon as possible to avoid further complications and potentially life threatening situations developing.
It is also important that your horse has regular tetanus vaccinations as puncture wounds are an ideal route for tetanus to infect your horse. Advice on vaccination can be sought form your veterinary surgeon.