October 06, 2008 | | Comments 0

Navicular Syndrome – Common Hoof Problems

Navicular Bone

Navicular Bone

Common Hoof Disorders: Navicular Syndrome

Navicular syndrome is a disorder that occurs in horses. However, its definition is quite vague and experts are still unsure exactly what navicular syndrome is or the exact casue. So what exactly causes this disorder? What are some treatment options? This article will provide you answers.

Causes of Navicular Syndrome

As mentioned earlier, there is not one known cause of navicular syndrome. However, there are some important explanations as to why it exists in the first place. Experts suggest that compression of the navicular bone beneath the DDF tendon and behind the small pastern bone is one factor responsible for the progression of navicular syndrome. Constant compression in this location can trigger cartilage degeneration. In this case the cartilage flattens or erodes and loses its ability to absorb shock. Horses that suffer from navicular syndrome often suffer from cartilage degeneration as well. In extremely severe cases, erosion in the cartilage develops to the extent that the bone inside eventually becomes exposed. As a result the bone may also become more and more brittle and eventually break.

Another important theory is that navicular syndrome occurs due to tension imposed on the ligaments that keep the navicular bone intact. Experts suggest that too much tension imposed on the ligaments contributes to the degenerative process. In time the strain causes inflammation and blood flow becomes impaired. There are many more elements that trigger the progression of navicular syndrome. These contributing factors include flawed conformation, unskilled shoeing, excessive workload, galloping, jumping, constantly climbing steep surfaces, traveling on hard or irregular ground, and excessive body weight in relation to foot size.

Symptoms of Navicular Syndrome

Symptoms may be noticed with a number of things. These include the progression of lameness in the front legs. What’s hard about recognizing symptoms of navicular syndrome is that they are usually obvious only when the disorder has already advanced. You may notice your horse applying more weight on the toe to avoid putting strain on the heel area, which may have the inflamed navicular bone and bursa. As a result, the horse may take more time to halt the stride. You may also notice your horse constantly trying to find balance as it attempts to alleviate the strain and pain within the affected heel. When work is done, your horse may have some lameness.

Other typical symptoms of navicular syndrome include a stumbling gait, disinclination to move forward accordingly, a tendency to place one foot forward and weighing on that foot while at rest (pointing), heel pain and irritability.

Treatment of Navicular Syndrome

The goal of navicular syndrome treatment is basically to relieve pain as well as stop the condition from progressing. Experts advise conservative treatment for younger patients, such as corrective shoeing and the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  Appropriate trimming and shoeing will restore normal foot/pastern axis and balance for the horse. On the other hand, NSAIDs are used to treat inflammation and relieve pain. If the navicular disease is considered chronic, the patient may have to undergo surgery.

Navicular syndrome is a complicated disorder that many horses suffer from. So experts advise that owners take preventative measures. Make sure your horse receives a regular check-up with the vet. If symptoms are detected early on, your horse will be more likely to respond well to treatment.

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