What Is Pyramidal Hoof Disease?

“Buttress foot,” also called pyramidal hoof disease, is generally seen in horses with poor leg conformation that are worked in high-impact disciplines, Dr. Raul Bras told The Horse.

Dr. Bras, a veterinary podiatrist, explained that pyramidal hoof disease is a form of osteoarthritis that affects the coffin joint or the pastern joint. Pyramidal disease occurs mainly in the front limbs when small fragments break off the coffin bone. It typically occurs in the front limbs and is believed to be caused by osteochondrosis, trauma or the when separate ossification centers occur.

Oftentimes, the pieces of the broken coffin bone are in the joint and not displaced. Pyramidal disease that involves a joint is more likely to cause lameness than when it is not in a joint. If the bone fragments are not removed, they can cause arthritis. The chips can be removed either arthroscopically or from opening the joint and removing the chips. Generally, the appearance of a buttress foot occurs when large fractures go untreated; it can be caused by damage within the joint of from damage to the structures around the joint.

Horses that are built poorly, like those with upright pasterns, that are toed-in or toed-out, or have a club foot are more likely to develop pyramidal disease as they age—each of these faults leads to more stress on the joints. Also, certain high-impact disciplines like jumping, barrel racing, working police horses (that ride on pavement) or roping may make a horse more likely to develop the condition.

Clinical signs of buttress foot may include a choppy gait, reluctance to go forward or unwillingness to perform the job the horse had done before. Periods of rest may alleviate the lameness, but once the horse goes back into work, the signs will reappear. Pyramidal disease may change the shape of the hoof over time, causing it to become narrower and squarer.

While anti-inflammatories may help alleviate pain, radiographs are a necessity to diagnose and verify if the bony changes involve a joint. The findings will determine the treatment and prognosis.

Read more at The Horse.

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