Caudal Heel Pain or Navicular: What's the Right Term?

Q. I’ve heard people use the terms "caudal heel pain," "navicular disease," and “navicular syndrome” when referring to a horse that has a lameness associated with the navicular bone and its related structures. Do all of these terms describe the same condition?


A. These terms are similar in meaning; however, technically, they are different. 

Caudal heel pain is typically used to describe pain from the heel or back of the foot. A horse with caudal heal pain would respond positively to a palmar digital nerve block. The navicular structures are often included, but the horse could also have pain associated with other structures. 

Navicular disease is usually used to describe disease that has caused radiographic changes to the navicular bone.

Navicular syndrome is more encompassing to describe lesions associated with the navicular soft-tissue structures and may not have radiographic abnormalities. 

Having said this, all three terms are commonly used interchangeably depending on veterinarian preference.

About the Author

Josh Zacharias, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR

Josh Zacharias, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, is an Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate who practices at Countryside Large Animal Veterinary Services in Greeley, Colorado. His interests include equine lameness, surgery, and podiatry. In addition to working as a surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Zacharias is a farrier with nearly 15 years of experience in therapeutic shoeing applications. Much of his caseload includes Western performance horses.

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