Pedal Osteitis means inflammation of the distal phalanx (coffin bone). The distal phalanx or coffin bone is the main supporting bone in the foot of the horse. Pedal osteitis is a common condition or clinical sign but many times it is not the complete diagnosis. What this means is that although there can be primary inflammation of the coffin bone at times this condition is related to other disease processes such as soft tissue damage and inflammation, laminitis and or conformational irregularities. Despite the fact that there may be several causes of the condition most veterinarians, myself included will use this term when diagnosing a lameness in the foot that cannot be attributed to other disease processes, has a diffuse nature and upon radiographic examination shows a coffin bone that has undergone evidence of demineralization and/or remodeling in an area consistant with the area the horse is experiencing pain.
Last summer our clinic treated an unprecedented number of horses with this condition. Many of the horses that suffer with pedal osteitis are horses that have thin soles and "flat feet", feet that have little concavitiy to the sole, predisposing them to trauma. I believe that last year's weather was a contributing factor in this high incidence. Last year's wetter than normal spring, at least much wetter than the drought conditions in 2002, followed with very hot dry summer months left very soft feet to "pound" and traumatize themselves on rock hard surfaces.
Here in Colorado our horses that have a good solid and substantial foot are usually hardened to the tough surfaces that they must endure. It is essential that we keep adequate sole on our horses feet when having them trimmed or reshod. If your horse has sore feet after each shoeing it is important to talk with your farrier about the condition so that he is aware of the situation. It may be that, your farrier always leaves as much of the non- sensitive sole in place as possible, on the other hand he may not be aware that your horse needs this additional protection and thus removes it. This is not to say that pedal osteitis occurs only in horses that have recently been reshod, as mentioned there are many conditions that may contribute to this finding.
Treatment of horses with this condition will depend upon recognition of the clinical signs, detection of the cause or disease process involved and type of use the horse will be subjected to. Common therapies include non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as phenylbutazone, rest or controlled exercise, therapeutic shoeing and/or trimming including padding and treatment of any primary disease that may have caused or contributed to the condition.
Should your horse be sore footed, for any length of time, call our office for an examination so that proper therapy can be instituted.