Founder - Emergency Treatment

     As previously mentioned in our article on founder, the disease comes usually very suddenly. It is imperative, that we recognize this ailment and provide an immediate help to the afflicted animal. If the veterinarian can come within an hour, then it is best to wait for him; in any case one should seek the help of a veterinarian and consult with him in what to do for the horse, should he not be able to come immediately. The following is a form of emergency treatment that I have implemented in several cases and with success. 

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Barefoot trim (Treatment) 

    The most important is to reduce the inflammation of the laminae as soon as possible and with it the pain/suffering of the animal. The horse should be placed into a stall, either with deep bedding or a rubber mat/floor. Ice is usually available in supermarkets or gas stations. One should submerge the horse’s feet into icy water for about half an hour and several times during the day if possible (best to use low-sides rubber tub). Further administering some kind of anti-inflammatory drugs like Bute, aspirin or Ibuprofen. Since this disease is blood related using additional drugs that will thin/oxidizing the blood are also useful, like Acepromazine since most stables have it on hand. In my personal experience, I have used the icing of the feet, about 30 minutes every four hours. Gave the horse 1.5 cc Ace and 10 cc (two pills) of Bute if available. If no Bute was available I have used about 20 to 25 – 200 mg Ibuprofen (Advil etc.). If one has the possibility to consult the veterinarian prior to this treatment, it is highly recommended.

    One also needs to contact his farrier, since part of the emergency treatment is proper therapeutic trim of the horse’s feet. This is best to be left to the farrier, who had some experience with foundered hoofs, since he is the one who will deal with the horse during his time of recovery, thus also responsible for it (the shape and the condition of the hoof will determine the proper course for the farrier to take).

    The veterinarian should also come again about 3 days after the inflammation is under control. This is to evaluate the damage through x-rays, in reference to the condition of the coffin bone/dropping/turning. This is of the essence, mainly for the farrier in order to determine the appropriate therapeutic treatment.

     As an emergency treatment in reference to the therapeutic trimming, which of course depends on the seriousness of the condition as well as the physical shape of the hoof and the depth of the sole protrusion, I have done often the following. In most cases I have removed the shoe immediately, trimmed the horse in such way, that the stress point would be relieved as much as possible. Horse was set down on his heels as much as possible, while nothing was removed of the protruding sole (if it was protruding). The cup of the foot is lowered as well, in order to have the sole rested on the ground (if possible), thus preventing any further dropping of the coffin bone. The toe is rolled (not squared) to reduce the stress to the front of the coronet band as well as the stressed caused by the deep flexor tendon. When the barefooted treatment is implemented, it is of great importance to have the horse standing on soft ground (no mud!). If possible, use rubber mats in the stall etc. I have had the best results with horses that were turned out on grass in such case. When I say grass, I mean they were walking or standing on it, hence the pasture was relatively rich in grass.

     One is of course thinking, that it was the grass that the horse may have founder from in the first place. Well, I believe that it was not the grass but the overfeeding of the animal, to which the grass only contributed in some cases. When the horse is put on such field a special muzzle (see above photo) was put on him, so his intake of food/grass was limited, but his movement on it was thus made possible. Though this may not sound scientific, and there may not be any specific data to support my believe; I have noticed that foundered horses walking/standing on the natural ground/grass have recovered much better and faster, than the horses kept in the stalls. One should keep the afflicted animal out of the hot sun; hence the horse was turned out mostly over night and stalled during the day on soft bedding/rubber mats etc. The turning out should be available only after the initial inflammation of the laminae is under control. (See more on therapeutic treatment/shoeing.)

     Remember that if the emergency treatment seems to be successful, the veterinarian assistance and especially of the farrier is crucial to the best possible recovery. Mostly in the early stages of this disease (not in all cases), through the assistance of the veterinarian as well as of the farrier, the full recovery is possible.

      In conclusion, one could compare the founder with a human heart attack. In both cases the patients are more susceptible to the reoccurrence of their disease, hence the proper management of the health condition of both, as well as correct hoof care of the horse are essential to prevent the reoccurrence. (See post founder management & prevention.)

All my comments are merely my opinions and beliefs gained from 40 years of professional life with horses. All drugs should be used only by the consent of a veterinarian and according to his instructions. A person who is with the horse everyday, should know him better than anyone else.