Navicular Disease In Horses

Navicular disease is a common and often debilitating condition that affects horses, particularly those used for athletic and performance purposes. Understanding the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention strategies for navicular disease is crucial for horse owners, trainers, and equine professionals.

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the various aspects of navicular disease, including its impact on horses, the signs and symptoms to watch out for, diagnostic methods, treatment options, and preventive measures. Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or a novice horse enthusiast, this guide aims to provide valuable insights into navicular disease and equip you with the knowledge to effectively manage and care for horses affected by this condition.

Key Takeaways:

  • Navicular disease is a condition that affects the navicular bone and associated structures in horses’ feet.
  • Common signs and symptoms include lameness, reluctance to move, changes in hoof growth, and heat in the hoof.
  • Diagnosis involves a physical exam, radiographs, and ultrasound, and treatment options include rest, shoeing changes, injections, and surgery.

What Is Navicular Disease?

Navicular disease is a common ailment affecting horses’ feet and causing lameness and discomfort, significantly impacting their mobility and performance.

What Causes Navicular Disease?

Navicular disease develops due to various factors, including inflammation, trauma to the navicular bone, genetic predisposition, and abnormal hoof conformation.

Inflammation plays a crucial role in the development of navicular disease, as it can lead to tissue damage and degradation within the navicular bone. Trauma, such as repeated impact on hard surfaces, can also contribute to the onset of the condition by causing structural damage. Genetic predisposition may make certain horses more susceptible to developing navicular disease. Abnormal hoof conformation, such as long toes and low heels, can increase pressure on the navicular bone, exacerbating the condition. It’s important to consider all these factors when evaluating and managing navicular disease in horses.

How Does Navicular Disease Affect Horses?

Navicular disease significantly affects horses by causing lameness, reducing mobility, and impacting their overall performance, particularly in athletic activities.

Horses affected by navicular disease often experience chronic lameness, especially in the front feet. This condition can severely limit their ability to move comfortably and perform various tasks. The pain and discomfort caused by the disease can lead to a decline in the horse’s overall performance, affecting their agility and willingness to engage in physical activities such as jumping or racing. It’s crucial for horse owners and caretakers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of navicular disease and seek appropriate veterinary care to ensure the well-being of their equine companions.

What Breeds Are Most Susceptible To Navicular Disease?

Certain horse breeds, such as Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Warmbloods, are more susceptible to Navicular Disease due to genetic predispositions and conformational traits.

Navicular Disease tends to affect certain breeds more severely due to their genetic makeup and physical structure. For instance, Quarter Horses are known for their stocky build and short, upright pasterns, which can increase the strain on their navicular bones. Thoroughbreds, with their refined and delicate feet, may also be prone to this condition. Arabians, characterized by their high-set tails and dished faces, may inherit a predisposition to Navicular Disease. Warmbloods, known for their athleticism and versatility, may be impacted by their larger body frames.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Navicular Disease?

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of Navicular Disease is essential, as it includes lameness, reluctance to move or work, changes in hoof growth, and heat in the hoof.


Lameness is a primary symptom of Navicular Disease, with affected horses exhibiting gait abnormalities and discomfort when navigating uneven footing.

Navicular Disease is a common cause of chronic forelimb lameness in horses, affecting the navicular bone and associated structures. Horses may show a shortened stride, a hesitant gait, and tenderness in the heel region. Often, the discomfort is more noticeable when walking downhill or on hard surfaces. It is essential to provide proper care and management for horses affected by Navicular Disease, including regular hoof care, appropriate shoeing, and tailored exercise programs to alleviate pain and support their mobility.

Reluctance To Move Or Work

Horses with Navicular Disease often show reluctance to move or work, impacting their exercise routine and overall performance due to discomfort and pain.

Navicular Disease, also known as podotrochlear syndrome, is a chronic, progressive condition affecting the navicular bone and surrounding structures in the foot of the horse. This debilitating disease causes inflammation, bone damage, and decreased blood flow, leading to significant discomfort when the horse is in motion. As a result, affected horses may exhibit a shortened stride, poor performance, and a hesitancy to engage in physical activities. The reluctance to move or work can be quite distressing for both the horse and its owner, as it hinders the animal’s ability to participate in regular exercise and athletic endeavors.

Changes In Hoof Growth

Navicular Disease can lead to changes in hoof growth, manifesting as abnormalities in the hoof structure that require specialized attention in hoof care.

These changes can include a decreased rate of hoof growth, irregularities in the hoof wall, and the development of a characteristic “boxy” appearance in the hoof. As the disease progresses, the horse may also show increased sensitivity in the affected hoof, leading to lameness and difficulty in movement.

Specialized shoeing and trimming techniques, often performed in collaboration with veterinarians and farriers, are essential in managing the abnormalities associated with Navicular Disease. The use of therapeutic shoeing and corrective trimming can help alleviate pressure on the affected area, promoting proper hoof function and mitigating discomfort for the horse.

Heat In The Hoof

The presence of heat in the hoof is a common symptom of Navicular Disease, indicating inflammation and discomfort that requires immediate attention and assessment.

Heat in the hoof due to Navicular Disease is attributed to inflammation of the navicular bone and surrounding structures, leading to pain and discomfort for the horse. This increased heat can be detected through careful palpation and thermal imaging techniques to pinpoint areas of abnormal warmth. The presence of heat is a clear indicator of the ongoing inflammatory process in the affected hoof, necessitating prompt intervention and management strategies. Monitoring and addressing the heat symptom is crucial in the comprehensive treatment approach for Navicular Disease.

How Is Navicular Disease Diagnosed?

How Is Navicular Disease Diagnosed? - Navicular Disease In Horses

Credits: Horselife.Org – Jerry Allen

Diagnosing Navicular Disease involves a comprehensive approach, including a physical examination, radiographs (X-rays), and ultrasound to assess the condition of the affected hoof.

Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination is crucial for diagnosing Navicular Disease, involving assessments of hoof sensitivity and gait analysis to identify signs of discomfort and lameness.

Conducting a physical examination begins with a close evaluation of the horse’s hooves, checking for any tenderness or sensitivity to pressure. Palpation of the digital pulse may also reveal abnormalities, and the horse’s gait is observed for any irregularities or asymmetry. Flexion tests of the limbs may be performed to pinpoint the source of pain. These assessments collectively provide valuable insights into the presence and severity of Navicular Disease.

Radiographs (X-rays)

Radiographs, commonly known as X-rays, play a vital role in diagnosing Navicular Disease by capturing images of the navicular bone and detecting any bony changes or abnormalities.

These images allow veterinarians and farriers to closely examine the navicular bone for evidence of degeneration, fractures, or the presence of calcifications. The visualization of such bony changes provides crucial insights into the progression of Navicular Disease, aiding in the development of comprehensive treatment plans. Radiographs help in ruling out other potential causes of lameness, contributing to accurate diagnosis and targeted therapeutic interventions.


Ultrasound imaging is an effective diagnostic tool for assessing the soft tissue structures in the affected hoof, including the deep flexor tendon and ligaments, to identify signs of injury or inflammation.

By utilizing ultrasound, veterinarians can visualize the internal structures of the hoof with high resolution, allowing them to identify any abnormalities that may contribute to Navicular Disease. The ability to assess the deep flexor tendon and ligaments provides valuable insight into potential sources of lameness and pinpoint areas of concern.

Ultrasound aids in differentiating between normal and abnormal soft tissue structures, paving the way for a more accurate diagnosis. With its non-invasive nature, ultrasound imaging is instrumental in evaluating the severity of soft tissue injuries and monitoring the healing process, offering crucial information for guiding treatment strategies.

What Are The Treatment Options For Navicular Disease?

What Are The Treatment Options For Navicular Disease? - Navicular Disease In Horses

Credits: Horselife.Org – Albert Taylor

The treatment options for Navicular Disease encompass a range of approaches, including rest, anti-inflammatory medications, shoeing changes, corticosteroid injections, and, in severe cases, surgical interventions.

Rest And Anti-inflammatory Medications

Rest and anti-inflammatory medications form the cornerstone of treatment for Navicular Disease, facilitating pain management and supporting the horse’s recovery process.

Rest is crucial as it allows the affected area to heal and reduces strain on the horse’s hooves. Meanwhile, anti-inflammatory medications help to minimize inflammation and alleviate discomfort, enabling the horse to move more comfortably and engage in necessary physical activity for recovery. It’s important to adhere to the prescribed treatment plan and monitor the horse’s response closely to ensure that the medications are effectively managing the disease and promoting healing.

Shoeing Changes

Implementing shoeing changes, such as corrective trimming and supportive shoeing, can alleviate the impact of Navicular Disease by providing essential frog support and optimizing hoof balance.

Corrective trimming aims to rebalance the hoof and relieve pressure on the affected areas, helping to reduce discomfort and mitigate the progression of Navicular Disease. Supportive shoeing, including the use of eggbars or rim pads, further aids in redistributing weight and reducing strain on the navicular bone. Provision of frog support through techniques like lateral frog support or sole support pads can enhance shock absorption and promote better circulation, contributing to improved comfort and soundness for the horse.

Corticosteroid Injections

Corticosteroid injections are employed to provide targeted pain relief and reduce inflammation in the navicular bursa, offering symptomatic relief for horses with Navicular Disease.

The injections deliver corticosteroids directly into the affected area, exerting potent anti-inflammatory effects and alleviating pain. This treatment modality plays a crucial role in managing the discomfort associated with Navicular Disease, enabling horses to resume their normal activities without the hindrance of debilitating pain. By suppressing the inflammatory response, these injections help improve the comfort and mobility of affected horses, promoting their overall well-being and performance.


In severe cases, surgical interventions may be considered for treating Navicular Disease, involving procedures such as navicular bone or deep flexor tendon and ligament desmotomy.

Surgical interventions, like desmotomy, aim to alleviate the pressure on the navicular bone and deep flexor tendon, allowing for pain relief and improved functionality. This procedure involves the surgical division of the affected ligaments or tendons to reduce tension and alleviate the discomfort associated with Navicular Disease. It’s important to consider the individual case, as the severity of the condition and response to other treatments will impact the decision to pursue surgical intervention. In advanced cases, surgical approaches offer hope for enhancing the comfort and mobility of affected animals.

How Can Navicular Disease Be Prevented?

Preventing Navicular Disease involves a comprehensive approach, encompassing proper hoof care and shoeing, regular exercise and conditioning, balanced diet and nutrition, and genetic testing and breeding selection.

Proper Hoof Care And Shoeing

Proper hoof care and shoeing practices are essential in preventing Navicular Disease, emphasizing regular trimming, balance, and the provision of adequate support for the horse’s hooves.

Regular trimming helps maintain the correct hoof angles and prevents excessive strain on the navicular bone, reducing the risk of Navicular Disease. Proper balance ensures weight distribution is even, minimizing stress on the structures within the hoof. Adequate support through shoeing or specialized orthopedic pads can alleviate pressure on the navicular region, further safeguarding against this debilitating condition.

Regular Exercise And Conditioning

Regular exercise and conditioning play a critical role in preventing Navicular Disease by promoting mobility, enhancing muscle strength, and maintaining overall joint health in horses.

Navicular Disease, also known as navicular syndrome, is a common and debilitating condition that affects the horse’s hoof. By focusing on regular exercise and conditioning, a horse’s overall health and well-being can be significantly improved, reducing the risk of developing this painful and limiting ailment.

Exercise helps to stimulate blood flow, maintain healthy joint function, and prevent the stiffness that can contribute to the onset of Navicular Disease. Conditioning programs, tailored to the specific needs of the horse, build strength and endurance, supporting the integrity of the feet and limbs.

Balanced Diet And Nutrition

Maintaining a balanced diet and proper nutrition is crucial in preventing Navicular Disease, ensuring the provision of essential nutrients and the avoidance of dietary imbalances.

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein is essential to support overall hoof health and prevent Navicular Disease. Providing adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids and limiting sugary or high-starch feeds can help reduce inflammation and stress on the hoof. Ensuring access to clean, freshwater is also crucial for digestion and overall metabolic health.

Genetic Testing And Breeding Selection

Genetic testing and informed breeding selection are instrumental in preventing Navicular Disease, allowing for the identification and avoidance of hereditary predispositions within horse populations.

This proactive approach plays a critical role in safeguarding the well-being of horses, as it enables breeders to ascertain the genetic makeup of potential breeding pairs and identify any carriers of hereditary factors linked to Navicular Disease. By leveraging this knowledge, breeders can strategically select mating pairs, thereby reducing the likelihood of passing on genetic predispositions to their offspring. This, in turn, aids in lowering the prevalence of Navicular Disease, ultimately contributing to the overall health and longevity of equine populations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Navicular Disease in Horses?

Navicular Disease in Horses is a chronic degenerative condition that affects the navicular bone and surrounding structures in the horse’s hoof.

What are the symptoms of Navicular Disease in Horses?

The most common symptoms of Navicular Disease in Horses include lameness, a shortened stride, stumbling, and reluctance to put weight on the affected limb.

What causes Navicular Disease in Horses?

Navicular Disease in Horses is caused by a combination of factors such as genetics, conformation, and repeated stress on the navicular bone from activities such as jumping or high-speed work.

Is Navicular Disease in Horses curable?

Unfortunately, Navicular Disease in Horses is not curable. However, with proper treatment and management, many horses can continue to have a good quality of life and be used for light to moderate work.

How is Navicular Disease in Horses diagnosed?

Diagnosing Navicular Disease in Horses typically involves a thorough physical exam, X-rays, and sometimes advanced imaging techniques such as MRI or ultrasound to assess the navicular bone and surrounding structures.

Can Navicular Disease in Horses be prevented?

While it cannot be completely prevented, certain management practices such as regular hoof care, proper nutrition, and appropriate exercise can help reduce the risk of a horse developing Navicular Disease. It is also essential to monitor and address any lameness or changes in movement promptly.

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