Equine Ailments - A to Z
Navicular Disease - A disorder of the tiny navicular bone in the feet attributed to many different causes; direct injury; indirect injury via pressure effects from the deep flexor tendon; derangement of development bone processes, e.g. deficiency in nutrition; interference with the vascular supply; long continued concussion; hereditary predisposition; bad shooing, high heels, etc; a sequel to some infective febrile disease such as strangles; rheumatism.
Symptoms – though all horse affected with navicular do not go lame, most do at the onset when the horse will become suddenly lame for no apparent reason. In most, though not all cases, the lameness is quite severe for a time and then it will settle down to a slight lameness or it may disappear. The horse, under close observation, may be restless on his feet in the stable. When the horse is cool from standing in the stable he may be lame for the first few steps, after warming up with exercise the lameness will probably be relieved, but if he is left to cool again and then moved, the lameness will reappear and will be more severe. As the disease progresses the contour of the foot will change to accommodate the restriction of flexion in the coffin joint. The hoof will tend to become blocky (deep at the heel and short at the toe). This is nature’s reaction to relieve pressure and pain by raising the frog and sole from the ground.
Treatment – Horse suffering from the disease should not be condemned before efforts have been made to alleviate the disease. Quite a number of cases of navicular have been found in horses under post-mortem, when the horses have died of other causes and have not been known to have had any effects from the navicular disease.
The vet may take x-rays to confirm the diagnosis. The best results from treatment are helped by an early diagnosis of the condition. Drug therapies, surgery and remedial shoeing can relieve the symptoms. Seek the help of a good farrier for remedial shooing then introduce controlled walking exercise and add cod liver oil to the feed to encourage good hoof growth.