Puncture wounds of the foot and hoof are common and are usually caused by a sharp object like glass shards, nails, or metal stakes. A puncture wound can be mild in severity or the wound may be serious enough to cause death. The key to preventing problems including lameness is to promptly treat the wound.
Sometimes, it is easy to diagnose a foot puncture wound. This usually happens because the sharp object can be seen sticking into the foot. If the object has gone into the frog, it can be very difficult to determine if the injury is actually due to a puncture wound. Even with aid of a hoof tester or x-ray, it may still be difficult to accurately diagnosis the problem.
While they can be difficult to diagnose, puncture wounds to the sole of the foot can also be difficult to heal. An abscess that develops under the sole of the foot can also travel to the coronet or coronary band. Signs of infection can also show up on the white line of the hoof.
Usually in this case, the infection will look like black spots on the line. This condition is usually referred to as “gravel”. Gravel can also travel to the coronary band and can cause great pain for a horse. An infection in the hoof will always follow the path of least resistance, which is why the infection will inevitably travel to the coronary band.
If you see a nail or other sharp object sticking out of your horse’s hoof, it is best to leave the object where it is and call a veterinarian immediately. If you take the object out, the hole may close up and not be visible when the veterinarian arrives. If you absolutely must remove the sharp object, be sure to save it for the veterinarian. Also make note of how far the nail had penetrated the hoof.
In addition to a veterinarian, you may need to call a farrier in order to drain the wound. Sometimes, a round of antibiotics may be necessary. This is not always necessary. However, all wounds will need to be drained whether or not antibiotics are necessary.
Once the abscess or infection has been exposed, the foot will need to be kept soft and hydrated in order to encourage the infection to properly drain. This can take anywhere from 3 days to a week. Keeping the hoof properly hydrated can prevent the wound from closing before the infection has healed.
One way to keep the hoof hydrated is to soak the area in warm Epsom water bath. To do this, just add Epsom salts to warm water and soak the foot. This should be done several times a day but the number of times will depend upon the severity of the infection. Any veterinarian should be able to give more information on preparing the Epsom water bath as well as the frequency and length of the bath.
The wound dressing should be changed daily for at least a week. Disposable diapers actually make great wound dressings as they absorb moisture and they can provide cushioning for the sore hoof and foot area.
During the treatment, the horse must be confined to a clean stall. In some instances, it may be necessary to make a special shoe to protect the injured foot and hoof area.