Much of what we learn about navicular disease has changed over the past few years. Do nerve blocks actually work? Is heel pain always navicular? What about frog infections? Are x-rays really the gold standard for diagnosis? What is the best treatment–medication, egg bar shoes with pads, stall rest, surgical denerving…? Lots of questions and seemingly new and different answers every week. Some of the best information I have found thus far has come from Steve Hebrock over at Enlightened Equine.
“Navicular disease is damage to tendon, cartilage, and bone at the interface of the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT or DFT) and the navicular bone as the consequence of heat generated from friction. The friction is the product of slow and/or fast vibration from improper (non-zero-coffin-joint-acceleration) landings, and the disease is the cumulative effect of the heat over a long period of time rather than the result of a singular incident.
As anyone who’s been around the horse world for any length of time undoubtedly knows, a diagnosis of “navicular” is incredibly common. Many veterinarians diagnose navicular syndrome or just plain “navicular” in situations where they see pain in the caudal (rearmost) portion of the hoof they can’t otherwise explain, and diagnose navicular disease whenever they see caudal hoof pain coupled with any sort of radiographic anomaly with the navicular bone.
In my experience, these diagnoses are wrong far more frequently than they’re right. Over the past 20-something years, I’ve examined many horses that have been diagnosed with some sort of “navicular” problem; yet, only 2 or 3 of those horses have had any evidence of what Dr. Rooney would’ve called “genuine” navicular disease. The rest have, in reality, been suffering from other issues – and, I might add, recovered from their lamenesses once the real causes of their problems were identified and properly treated. Just a few examples…”
Please hop on over to Enlightened Equine and read this whole series if you want to learn more about Navicular disease!