Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Foot: contracted heels

Contributor(s): Gordon Baker, Olin Balch, Simon Curtis, Graham Munroe, Vetstream Ltd

Introduction

  • Cause: restricted exercise or lack of normal weight-bearing through pathological process or poor shoeing. Long-toe, low heel foot conformation. May be normal foot shape in some equine breeds (mules and burros). 
  • Signs: narrowing of the heel, with atrophy and recession of the frog; lameness - unilateral or bilateral; front feet > hind feet.
  • Diagnosis: lameness examination, conformation, foot examination.
  • Treatment: as for primary cause; farriery.
  • Prognosis: depends on etiology.
Print off the Owner factsheet on Caring for your horse's feet to give to your clients.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Lack of full weight-bearing possibly due to chronic lameness or incorrect or unnecessary shoeing, preventing contact of the frog with the ground. May be normal foot shape in some equine breeds (mules and burros).

Pathophysiology

  • Failure to bear weight fully on caudal foot   →   heels lengthen   →   failure of frog to contact ground   →    frog atrophy.
  • Immobility/restricted exercise   →    decrease in blood flow to hoof capsule   →    decrease in moisture content of the hoof   →    increased inward curving force from drying hoof and lack of outward pressure from weight of horse during movement   →    heels contracting.
  • Contraction of the heel may   →    compression of sensitive inner structures of hoof   →    pain   →    lameness.
  • Commonly associated with a primary painful condition of the horse's heel that causes the horse to avoid normal weight-bearing, eg sidebones   Foot: lateral cartilage calcification (sidebone)  , navicular disease   Navicular bone: syndrome  , laminitis   Foot: laminitis  , severe thrush   Foot: thrush  , foot infections   Foot: subsolar abscess / infection  .
  • Acquired flexural deformity of the distal interphalangeal joint in foals and yearlings   Musculoskeletal: angular deformity    Foot: flexural deformity - hyperextension  will often result in a club foot, including contracted heels.
  • In extreme cases, the pastern becomes more upright, the hoof-pastern axis becomes more vertical   Forelimb: axial alignment - conformation  and this abnormal conformation   →    abnormal concussion and pathological changes in the foot   →    further lameness.
  • Lack of exercise may   →    contracted heels in all 4 feet.
  • Immobilization, eg in a cast, may result in contracted heel in that foot.

Timecourse

  • Slow and progressive.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Eliashar E (2007)An evidence-based assessment of the biomechanical effects of the common shoeing and farriery techniques.Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract23(2), 425-442PubMed.
  • Ruohoniemi Met al(1997)Relationship between ossification of the cartilages of the foot and conformation and radiographic measurements of the front feet in Finnhorses.Equine Vet J29(1), 44-48PubMed.
  • Reeves M Jet al(1989)Miscellaneous conditions of the equine foot. (Review).Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract5(1), 221-242PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • O'Grady S E (2009)Guidelines for Trimming the Equine Foot: A Review.In:Proc55th AAEP Convention. Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • O'Grady S E & Merrium J G (2007)Low Heels in the Hind Feet - An Often Overlooked Problem.Am Farriers J. Website:www.equinepodiatry.com/article_low_heels.htm.
  • Stashak T S  et al(2002) Ed Trimming and Shoeing for Balance and Soundness.In:Adams Lameness in Horses. 5th edn. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore. pp 1109-1110. ISBN: 0781741955.
  • Moyer W A (1999)Contracted Heels.In:Equine Medicine & Surgery.5th edn. Eds: Colahan P T, Merritt A M, Moore J M & Mayhew I G. Mosby, St Louis. pp 1544.
  • Pollitt C C (1999) Ed Color Atlas of the Horse's Foot.Mosby, London. ISBN: 0723417652.


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