Hoof Problems = Euthanasia? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 09:37 AM Thread Starter
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Hoof Problems = Euthanasia?

This may be a little long because I do have to give a little bit of history so please bare with me. I have a 24 year old breeding stock paint mare. I have had her since she was 11. Approximately two years or so ago, the barn owner managed to let her outside of her paddock and she ran around the whole property like a banshee. She ended up coming back with a stone bruise on the left front.

Since that stone bruise, we have had abscesses with her off and on in the left foot. Very rarely, they would pop up in the right. Sometimes they would come once a month, other times she would go months without getting one and then POOF, one would spring up. Given the barn she was at, at the time, I attributed it to the environment as I lived in coastal Florida and it was often wet. While living here, her feet were done with just a natural trim (mustang roll). I had seen better feet but at the time, I did not know if it was just her feet, or it was a farrier thing.

Fast forward to late last year and this year. I moved her to a new barn that is nice and does not have standing water after a rain. It is a new area so also a new farrier. When he first did her feet, I was amazed at how GREAT they looked. I mean, they NEVER once looked that great in the 13 years that I have now owned her. Shortly thereafter, she abscessed on me in the front left. It popped, she was good for about three weeks and as of right now, she has an abscess brewing in her RIGHT FRONT (which is very rare for her).

At this point, I am unsure if she has just been trimmed incorrectly for years and now, that she is being trimmed correctly, it is a fighting battle. OR, if I need to stick with a farrier who does the mustang roll.

The vet was out yesterday so we decided to go ahead and get xrays. I will post the link to the xrays at the bottom of this post. Long story short, he told me that she has pedal osteitis in the front right and on the left, which has been the problem hoof, she has pedal osteitis, as well as central P3 lucency (possible keratoma or infection). Given her history of abscesses, I am thinking more along the lines of infection. The vet says a lot of her coffin bone has been eaten away and even if we did do surgery (via his office, would run between $2500-3000) that he doesn't foresee a good outcome and recommended euthanasia.

Even though she is 24, she is in great health otherwise. Shiny coat, good weight and when she doesn't have an abscess, she enjoys her life. Which is another thing I want to point out. The only time she is in pain is when she has an abscess. If her hooves are really that bad to the point that she needs to be euthanized, wouldn't she be lame even when she doesn't have an abscess? She was trotting around the pasture as if there was nothing wrong when she did not have an abscess.

Could the "moth-eaten" coffin bone simply be showing where her numerous abscesses in the past have tracked? I just cannot imagine that a horse with a coffin bone infection (or a keratoma) would be trotting herself around in the pasture, with all her approximately 1200 lbs.

Any suggestions, or advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. I was very upset yesterday and thankfully, I called my mother because she suggested that I get a second opinion. I have sent the xrays off to the University so hopefully will hear from them soon.

I also do want to mention that when I kept on her feet every day, she didn't seem to get abscesses but when I had to go out of state, I had someone care for her that did not clean her feet as often and it seems she got more then.

Here is a link to the xrays. Thank you very much in advance.

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post #2 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 09:45 AM
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Let me first offer my condolences. I do not have any experience with this other than to say that yes a horse with an infection of the bone in the foot can suffer from chronic abcess. Euthanasia seems extreme but may be the only option once those bones are gone and your mare is down permanently. The abcess causes the lamebness you see but she probably has some pain most days. Horses are stoic animals and hide pain because in the wild the weak one is eaten first.

Only you can make the final decision for her. Sorry you had such a dire diagnosis. And FWIW a second opinion is always a good idea.
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post #3 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 10:04 AM
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Wow, I've never seen that level of coffin bone degradation.
Are you certain your horse is not lame other than when she is obviously limping? People can adjust their eyes to seeing a horse moving abnormally, until they believe they are sound. I've had people tell me their horse was sound when the horse was obviously gimping around.
One way you can tell if a horse is having chronic pain is by looking at their body structure. How they hold themselves and stand can be good indicators of if/how they are compensating for pain. Also abnormal muscle development.
If you posted photos of your horse, people here would probably be able to tell you if there were signs of chronic pain.
However, I could almost believe she is not in pain unless abscessing, due to the amount of sole depth she has. That being said, due to her issue involving the bones inside the hoof, there is probably no way to keep her from abscessing over and over.
Most likely the vet is correct in saying the humane thing to do would be to put her down.
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post #4 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 08:40 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all of the replies. The vet from the University called, couldn't access the link so I just got done sending him the images so we will see what he seems to think.

I should emphasize that she is just a pasture pet and would only need to be pasture sound. When she is not blowing an abscess, she is fine. Her abscess that we are dealing with now just actually opened up today and already, she is putting her full weight on it and getting around much better.*

While I am sure there is some pain when she does not have an abscess, given the internal structures, she is bright eyed and loves life, she doesn't seem miserable and in pain. I know horses are stoic but there is no body language that indicates she is in massive pain outside of the abscesses.

So, I guess it is a matter if we can get the abscesses from continuing how they have been. I think if we could get good control of that, she would be okay. That is where the trimming comes in but I don't know if it's best to not be so drastic - I mean, before her trims were mediocre and now I have a really great farrier so I am unsure if that is too much of a big change for her.

Thanks again for the information and advice. I will keep everyone updated on to how she is doing.
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post #5 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by tinabeanad View Post
I should emphasize that she is just a pasture pet and would only need to be pasture sound....
While I am sure there is some pain when she does not have an abscess, given the internal structures, she is bright eyed and loves life, she doesn't seem miserable and in pain. I know horses are stoic but there is no body language that indicates she is in massive pain outside of the abscesses.
My vet says that "pasture sound" should not imply a horse that is severely lame or in constant pain. It should mean a horse that is in no pain on soft ground, and that only has issues with sustained work.

Looking at those xrays again, the destruction of the bone in the hoof has caused severe deformation of the outer hoof capsule also, and there is no way the horse is able to move and stand normally. I am sorry but I think you are believing you don't see signs of pain even though the signs are there. When you say loves life, does that mean she canters around the field? Or does she walk everywhere and lay down frequently?

I had a mare in massive pain from foundering, and she had bright eyes, showed interest in other horses and continued eating. That didn't mean she wasn't suffering. Horses have a very strong survival instinct and usually won't show a depressed state unless they are certain their death is imminent.

I think you are being naive if you believe this comes down to hoof trimming. Meaning, instead of thinking your horse is going to be OK long term, I'd be thinking about when the best time would be in the near future to let her go. Maybe she hasn't reached that level of suffering in your mind yet, but she will very soon and this is not something that can be reversed or fixed. She won't grow new hoof bones. The structure of the outer hoof grows from the soft tissue around those bones, and in my opinion all of that is disrupted to the point where she will soon be unable to grow a supportive shell at all.
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post #6 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 10:15 PM
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I've had some horses with hoof issues, founder and so on, and I've never seen an Xray that showed such degradation in all my life with them. Unfortunately, I have to say I'm with your vet on this one. Not necessarily a put her down today kind of thing but......soon, for her sake. We owe it to them to have their best interests at heart, even when it breaks ours. Were she mine, I would pick a nice, warm, spring, sunny day when she can go out to pasture and hand graze, get a nice spa treatment and then toward the end of the day, I would give her grace. I'm sorry.

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post #7 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 10:26 PM
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I have also never seen such xrays. I would be curious to see pictures of the mare's feet and a video of how she moves, even free in the pasture.

Also curious to hear @loosie 's opinion..
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post #8 of 52 Old 04-11-2019, 11:41 PM
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Have seen Xrays of foundered horses with rotated coffin bones close to penetrating the soles. Haven't seen an xray with a coffin bone that degraded. Kindest act of love you could do is lay her to rest,on a nice sunny day. Never easy to do, but doing right by them sometimes isn't easy and saying good bye one last time is extremely hard.
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post #9 of 52 Old 04-12-2019, 01:51 AM
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Hiya just chipping in - sorry to hear the bad news. I would say before making a final decision DO try to get pictures of her feet (clean and as straight as possible when on the ground and angled appropriately when held up etc). DO try get videos of her moving freely and post them here. I recently had to put my 18yo dog down. Don't get me wrong, when I was around he was bright and happy. But all the other hours, at night, in the dark he ached and struggled to get comfortable. It was time even if the hours *in my presence* life for him looked bearable. I think life in general is an unbearable burden alone, let alone pain on top of it. The bearable hours are measured against our own happiness, not theirs. I totally believe it's possible she's a happy girl and the good days outweigh the bad but you will rarely find vets or strangers advise anything other than euthanasia because the risk that your love for her might end up with her suffering terribly and you beating yourself up with guilt. Better to end on a happy, controlled note, where possible!

So.. the next best option is to find a way to keep you grounded. Like posting openly on a forum, regular vet visits etc to keep an objective eye on things so to speak. I've not been a member anywhere near as long as some on here but this is not a community that'll jump to euthanasia unless they really felt it was in the horse's best interests. Good luck it is NOT easy <3
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post #10 of 52 Old 04-12-2019, 02:32 AM
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I cannot access the pictures.

What I will say is that when there are problems in both feet a horse will more often than not, be taken as being sound where it is really lame on both fronts or even all four feet.
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