Misplaced Nail

Q. Two days after my farrier shod my mare, she became lame on a front hoof. I pulled the shoe and put a boot on her until he could return. However, when I pulled the shoe, I saw that he had put two nails in too high. She is painful and won't put any weight on it at all. How long will this go on?

Richard, via e-mail

A. Lameness and infection caused by a misplaced nail can have serious consequences if not treated appropriately.

It's not that the nail is driven too high, it's that the nail is placed too deep, where it invades the sensitive laminae. The nail damages the laminae, and seeds the area with bacteria. The nail itself acts as a foreign body leading to an infection. Upon removing the shoe, the suspected nail's entrance will be located inside the white zone on the bottom of the foot. A pain response is confirmed when hoof testers are used over the nail hole.

The next (and most important) step is to explore the tract where the nail entered using a thin, small loop knife and following it until drainage is established. The foot is then placed in an Animalintex poultice that is soaked in hot water. The poultice envelops the whole foot, including the coronary band, and it is attached using brown gauze, a cohesive bandage, and duct tape. This will soften the affected area and promote drainage. The poultice is changed every 24 hours.

When the horse shows no signs of lameness, and no further drainage is observed, a gauze pad saturated with 2% iodine is placed over the tract. The foot is bandaged for a few additional days to dry out the tract. When the tract is dry, the shoe can be carefully replaced making sure to avoid placing nails in the area that was treated. Whether to use antibiotics for hoof wall infections is determined by the attending veterinarian.

About the Author

Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS

Stephen E. O'Grady, DVM, MRCVS, was a professional farrier for 10 years prior to obtaining his degree in veterinary medicine. He learned farriery through a formal apprenticeship under Hall of Fame farrier Joseph M. Pierce of West Chester, Penn. After graduating from veterinary school, O'Grady did an internship in Capetown, South Africa. Then he joined Dan Flynn, VMD, at Georgetown Equine Hospital in Charlottesville, Va., as an associate for five years. Since that time, he has operated a private practice in Virginia and South Africa, with a large portion of the practice devoted to equine podiatry. He has published numerous articles and lectured extensively on equine foot problems. His web site is www.equipodiatry.com.

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