Conservative Therapy for Crooked Foals

The most common angular limb deformity in foals is carpus valgus (sometimes called toeing out) in which affected foals have limbs that flare outward below the carpus (knee). This deformity can be corrected surgically with hemi-circumferential periosteal transection and elevation (HCPTE). The procedure involves lifting the fibrous layer, called the periosteum, off of the outside of the carpal bones, and cutting it, essentially releasing tension and allowing the limb to straighten. Recently, researchers from the University of Saskatchewan set out to compare HCPTE to simple stall confinement and hoof rasping for treatment of carpus valgus.

Eight foals with experimentally induced carpus valgus were used for the study. HCPTE was performed on one limb, leaving the other limb as a control. Foals were confined for eight weeks, with weekly hoof rasping on both feet to maintain balance.

Both limbs on all foals returned to within three degrees of normal limb angle after eight weeks. There was no difference between HCPTE limbs and control limbs, which suggests that HCPTE was no more effective than conservative therapy. The authors of the current study concluded that while some types of severe, naturally occurring angular limb deformities might require surgical intervention, it is quite reasonable to treat carpus valgus in young foals with confinement and hoof rasping, avoiding the risks and expense of surgery.

Read, E.K.; Read, M.R.; Townsend, H.G.; et al. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 221 (4), 536-540, 2002.

About the Author

Susan Piscopo, DVM, PhD

Susan Piscopo, DVM, PhD, is a free-lance writer in the biomedical sciences. She practiced veterinary medicine in North Carolina before accepting a fellowship to pursue a PhD in physiology at North Carolina State University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and two sons.

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