What is Degloved Horse Hoof? Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Ever heard of the “Degloved Horse Hoof” condition? Yes, but not sure how and why it happens? It’s okay, we are about to discuss this in detail. Hooves appear tough and stronger but in reality, they are super delicate and demand special care to remain intact. A little reckless behavior towards the horse hooves can make the horse lame for life. 

The horse, whether it’s exceptional or regular breed, hooves may get affected by several disorders but the common ones are laminitis, navicular disease, infections, puncture wounds, keratoma, quittor, pedal osteitis, sheared heels, seedy toe, thrush, bone cysts, bruises, corns, cankers, fractures, pyramidal disease but degloved hooves can do worse to the poor little fella. 

All hoof diseases and problems (even degloved hooves) can be prevented by giving the hooves proper care. There would be various horse hoof diseases but degloved hoof is much severe as it makes the sensitive coronary band, insensitive laminae, and sensitive laminae vulnerable. 

Now that you know the seriousness of this deadly condition, let’s move ahead and discuss what exactly degloved hoof condition is? 

In simpler and understandable words, the degloved hoof is a painful condition in which the whole outer protective cap of the horse hoof detaches completely from the horse, leaving the inner part vulnerable. In this painful condition, the horse becomes lame as it can now not even put the slightest pressure on the limbs. 

Several horse admirers think good nutrition and careful hoof trimming can minimize the chances of this disease’s occurrence. In this article today, we would be discussing the causes, treatment, prevention, and everything you need to know about this painful horse condition. Let’s start with the causes first.

The causes of degloved horse hoof condition

There can be several minor to mild conditions or diseases that cause the entire horse hoof capsule to fall off. The main causes of degloved horse hoof condition are

  • Poor health
  • Laminitis
  • Injury
  • White line disease
  • Frequent improper shoeing

Poor health

We all know that poor nutrition makes the horse hooves vulnerable to cracks, brittles, and breakage. The cracks, brittles, and breakage make it more prone to this deadly condition as it takes away the hoof’s natural strength.

The constant unavailability of essential nutrients causes the entire hoof capsule to eventually fall off, leaving the horse lame for life. 

Keeping the hooves and this deadly condition aside, the horses are expected to perform to their fullest so they can not afford to have poor health. Hoof health is equally important to prevent degloving. Hoof health specifically can be maintained with nutritional hoof supplements, careful trimming, and proper shoeing.

Laminitis

Laminitis, which contributes to degloving, is a painful condition in which inflammation occurs in the laminae of the foot. It is common in horses, donkeys, and ponies. Laminitis is caused by the following issues;

  • Disruption of blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae
  • Digestive upset due to grain overload
  • Abrupt changes in diet
  • Repetitive physical abuse during endurance training, and running and jumping on not-so-horse-friendly trails

Out of all the above-mentioned reasons, laminitis is more commonly caused by the disruption of blood flow to the sensitive and insensitive laminae.

Both sensitive and insensitive laminae keep the coffin bone locked to the hoof wall, the disruption of blood flow weakens and in worse cases breaks the bond, so degloving occurs.

Laminitis attacks would always be unique for every horse, donkey, or pony. It can be mild for one foot and severe for others. Mostly, it affects the front feet the most. 

The worth-mentioning signs of laminitis are;

  • Swelling in hoof
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Bounding digital pulse
  • Unusual rings
  • Abnormal foot lifting
  • Bleeding from laminae
  • Shortened stride
  • Abnormal insulin level
  • Obesity
  • Diarrhea
  • Inflammation

There are a lot of other signs as well but these were the early and noticeable ones. If the laminitis attack is caught and treated early the chances of laminitis causing degloving fall back to zero. If the laminitis reaches a critical stage it would be impossible for the vet to control it from making the horse lame(degloved).

It’s important to mention here laminitis does not always end up causing degloved hooves. It only causes the entire cap to fall off when this disease becomes impossible to control. The two most visible hoof situation can indicate that horse would end up losing the cap are;

  • Widening of white lines
  • Sunken hoof

Injury

Horses and donkeys get injured all the time.

A serious hoof injury can also become a reason for degloving. Degloving also occurs when the horse unknowingly, while running at full speed, snare their hooves with a steel fence or solid immovable object.

Other hoof injuries or improper hoof trimming that cause brittles, cracks, and breakage in the hoof make the horse degloved. Moreover, the injuries caused by vigorous movement and stepping on sharp objects can only detach the cap. 

White line disease

White line disease can also detach the entire hoof cap. The white line disease in its initial stages is not painful at all and quite hard to detect.

This disease of lameness enters the critical stage when the fungi and bacteria descend upon the white line and causes the hoof wall to break down. If this white line disease stays untreated for a long time it separates the hoof cap from the hoof and makes the horse lame. 

Frequent Improper shoeing

Improper shoeing can not be the sole reason for the horse to lose its hoof cap. Since we are discussing all possible causes of degloving so ignoring the role improper shoeing plays to make the horse lame can not be neglected.

Improper shoeing may not make the hoof cap fall off but contributes to the lameness by causing injuries, cracks, and bringing change in gait.

Degloved-Hoof

Image Source The Study of the Equine Hoof by Lindsey Field

The treatment of degloved horse hoof condition

As you can judge from the scenario, it’s impossible to bring the horse back to the state of soundness once the hoof cap is fully detached.

The hoof cap can not be reattached to the horse’s feet so it’s incurable. If miraculously this poor creature regrows the entire hoof capsule it would still be lame. 

Degloved hoof can not be treated but the causes (laminitis, injury, or poor health) can be treated to minimize the risk of degloving happening in the first place. The regrowth of a hoof cafe usually takes a year, it rarely regrows normally.

It’s important to give your horse a first aid treatment when it loses its hoof capsule before the vet arrives. The vets usually suggest bandaging the hoof as first aid treatment. Before giving a first aid treatment, it’s better to take your vet’s comments on your horse’s condition as it gets even more sensitive in this situation.

Degloved hoof prevention

What can not be treated can be prevented. Degloved may not be cured but it can be prevented by taking simple measures. Since it’s a painful hoof condition, it’s pretty obvious that it can be prevented only by maintaining healthy horse hooves. The hooves can be maintained or kept healthy by these measures;

Regular checkups; it’s no surprise that regular checkups will keep you updated with the current horse hoof conditions. So, if the horse is just beginning to catch the signs the disease can be prevented by the vet. Moreover, the horse admirer who knows the structure of horse hooves well can also notice if everything is going well or not.

Professional hoof trimming; Hoof trimming is a sensitive procedure that should only be performed by a professional. To prevent cracks, brittles, and breakage, that lead to degloving, hoof trimming must be performed properly. 

Nutritional supplement; Nutritional supplement can not only improve the hoof condition but also help in maintaining the hooves. The well-maintained healthier hooves are less-likely to get affected.

Ride the horse on horse-friendly grounds; Riding on horse-friendly grounds can cause less-damage to the horse hooves. It also keeps on trimming the hooves naturally. So, avoid taking your horses to tough trials to prevent injuries that improve the possibility of degloved hooves.

Shoeing; If improper shoeing can contribute to the disease of lameness then well-trimmed hooves and proper shoeing can prevent it to great extent.

In simpler words, degloving can be prevented only by maintaining healthier hooves with proper cleaning, nutritional supply, and professional hoof trimming. If the hooves are well-maintained the chances of degloving occurrence are zero. 

Everything you need to know about degloved horse hooves

The degloving procedure takes several days

The degloving is a painful procedure that keeps hurting this poor creature for several days. It starts with loosening the coffin bone and hoof wall bond and ends with detaching the entire capsule from the horse’s feet, leaving the horse in a painful lame condition for life.

It rarely affects the well-grown horses

The devolved hooves condition is more common in foals than well-grown horses. The foals, that can see their whole life ahead, unfortunately, have to live a life of lameness. 

Degloving can cause infection if the first aid is not given

Degloving exposes the most sensitive part of the horse’s feet to the world. When the upper protecting hoof cap falls off the inner sensitive structure can catch bacterial and fungal infection but these infections can be easily avoided. If the first aid treatment is not given the problem can get worse. First aid treatment can save the poor animal from infection and further complications. 

The prevent further damage the vets usually suggest spraying the hoof sealers and apply hoof pads or boots. So, if this unfortunate situation happens to you and your horse, seize the condition with the suggested first aid treatment. 

The hoof cap become loose before falling off

As mentioned-above the degloving procedure takes a few days. The hoof cap does not usually surprisingly come off; it takes several days to fall off. The hoof cap becomes loose and then falls off. 

Only a miraculous regrowth can heal the horse

Once the condition of lameness has taken the horse down fully it is not possible to reattach the hoof. The miraculous regrowth can heal the horse but one in million horses would be lucky to regrow the entire hoof cap.

This condition exists in horses but it’s not common

The horse owners know how important it is to maintain healthier hooves. The maintenance of hooves can prevent lameness to a noticeable extent. This degloved hoof condition exists and even has taken several horses down but it’s not that common. 

It’s painful

A detachment of the hoof cap from the hoof is extremely painful for the horses, donkeys, and ponies. The detachment of hoof sensation is somewhat similar to the pain humans feel when they accidentally walk on broken glass.

Even if the entire hoof cap regrows the horse would still not able to walk normally

The horse rarely regrows the entire cap but if it manages to get the cap back it’s still impossible for the horse to walk normally. The horse would still be lame enough to be called lame.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Why does the horse owner deglove the horses?

It’s stupid to think that the horse owners have the heart to deglove the horse on purpose. It’s a painful condition that is caused by laminitis, injury, white line disease, poor hoof health, lack of nutrition, and frequent improper shoeing.

Is degloving painful for horses?

Yes, it’s extremely painful. The horses feel the similar sensation humans feel when they accidentally walk on the broken glass. If the first aid treatment is not given to seize the condition the pain and the hoof condition would get worse over time.

Is degloving curable?

No, once the entire hoof cap detaches completely it becomes incurable. It can be prevented from happening but can’t be cured. 

What to do when the horse hoof cap detaches?

It’s time to give the first aid treatment and call the vet. The first aid treatment the vets mostly suggest is to spray the hoof sealers and apply hoof pads or boots. It may not minimize the damage caused but it will prevent bacterial and fungal infections.

Can laminitis cause degloved hooves?

Yes, laminitis can become a reason for degloving. The two laminitis stages that can indicate that the horse would end up losing the cap are the widening of white lines and sunken hooves.

What are the main causes of degloved hooves?

There are several causes of degloved hooves but the most common ones are, hoof injuries(caused by vigorous movement and sudden walking on sharp objects), laminitis, white line disease, frequent improper shoeing, lack of nutrition, and poor hoof health.

Can the horse regrow the hoof cap?

Yes, it’s possible. The horse can regrow the entire cap but it won’t be the same as the old one and the regrown cap would still not take away the lameness.

Summary

“Degloved hoof” is a painful condition in which the entire protecting hoof cap falls off. It can affect horses, donkeys, and ponies. Degloving is incurable and it leaves the horse lame for life. It is often caused by laminitis, white line disease, improper shoeing, hoof injuries, lack of nutrition, and poor hoof health. It can not be treated but it can be prevented to a great extent by maintaining healthy hooves and right shoeing.

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