Emergency Conditions in Horses


Foreign Body Penetration of the Frog of the foot

A foreign body (most commonly a nail) stuck in the frog part of the foot is potentially very  serious as the nail can penetrate to the deep structure of the foot e.g. navicular bone, navicular bursa potentially causing an infection very rapidly.

Infection of these structures carries a very poor prognosis if surgical intervention is not carried out quickly (within 48 hours).  Due to the spongy nature of the frog removing the nail will often seal the hole, therefore, it is impossible to tell where it went in and at what angle.  Our best advice is to leave the nail in situ and call the vet.  Our vet can then (if necessary) x-ray the foot and accurately determine where the nail has penetrated.  Leaving the nail may not be possible if it is sticking partly out because the horse may stand on the foot pushing it deeper into the foot.  If the nail is partly in the foot draw a sketch of the foot where the nail is, remove the nail, note the angle it went in and how deep it went in, bandage the foot and keep the horse in a dry clean stable until the vet arrives.

Failure of the Mare to Cleanse (Retained Foetal Membranes)

Failure to pass the cleansing (placenta) is a common post foaling problem that at first glance may seem innocuous, but is very serious and can lead to a whole host of life threatening problems.  Horses usually pass the placenta within 90 minutes of birth as the attachments to the uterus gradually and gently breakdown.  Retaining the placenta beyond 4 hours is considered abnormal, however, it is advisable to seek veterinary assistance before this point.  Prolonged retention of the placenta causes rapid bacterial growth and toxin production these are absorbed into the blood stream and start circulating.  This septicaemia and toxaemia causes a number of problems, one of the most obvious and serious being laminitis.  This form of laminitis is extremely aggressive.

It is advisable to monitor your mare and foal very closely after the delivery. If your mare is not passing the placenta within 3 hours it is advisable to contact the surgery to arrange a visit as soon as possible as risk of subsequent problems is reduced the quicker the placenta is passed. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PULL THE PLACENTA FROM THE MARE.  This causes tears in both the placenta and potentially the uterus leading to problems with infection.  The vet will usually aid the removal of the placenta with an injection or drip containing oxytocin.  We normally also ‘wash out’ the uterus with large volumes of fluid.  Antibiotics will also normally be given to prevent bacterial growth in any fluid left within the uterus. Even if everything has gone fine and the mare has passed the placenta normally we would advise arranging a visit at your earliest convenience to assess the mare, foal and placenta after the foal is born.  We would ask that you collect it and place it in a plastic bag as the examination of the placenta is important to see if it has been passed intact.

Eye Conditions

Often owners with the complaint “my horse has had a weepy eye for a few days and is not getting much better” contact us.  In the majority of cases this is due to conjunctivitis however in a number of horses it may be due to uveitis (inflammation of the uvea) & ulcers.  The uvea of the eye includes the coloured iris.   Inflammation of this area causes increased tear production, phobia of light, continual blinking and conjunctivitis.  Most of these symptoms cannot be distinguished from less severe eye conditions.  The cause of uveitis is complicated but is thought to be an immune mediated reaction.  Prompt treatment is the key to treating this condition as permanent damage may occur if inflammation does not subside quickly.  Treatment usually involves steroid, atropine and antibiotic drops given 4 or 5 times daily.  Treatment can last for weeks if not months.

The seriousness of this condition is such that it makes it vital that a vet examines the animal in person rather than simply advising treatment over the phone.


The material contained in this website is presented for information purposes only . The material is in no way intended to replace professional veterinary care or attention from a professional veterinary surgeon. 

The advice given in any of our web pages cannot be used as the basis for a diagnosis or choice of treatment.

Clyde Vet Group advises that you should always consult a veterinary surgeon about any queries with animals under your care.


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