Quittor

Also Known As

Foot infection, Graveled

Description

Quittor involves the soft tissues just above the foot or the coronary band in the hoof of the horse. In cutaneous quittor, the cause is bacteria entering the sole of the foot through minute cracks. Punctures of the tissue and stone bruises to the sole also serve as a means of bacteria infecting the foot.

Cartilaginous quittor is necrosis of the lateral cartilage of the hoof and is characterized by one or more fistulous openings discharging purulent pus, generally above the coronary band. This form of the disease is the result of direct injury to the lateral cartilage by deep puncture wounds, severe wire cuts, or injury from calkins, a type of horseshoe.

Once the bacteria has passed through the sole, it forms an abscess that can create substantial pressure in the area and will eventually work upward through the laminae and soft tissue of the foot.

Given time and pressure, the abscess will usually break out in the vicinity of the coronary band, although in some cases the abscess will break through the sole of the foot and drain to the outside.

The first indication of the condition is usually lameness, which gets worse on a daily basis unless the cause is discovered and treatment started. Heavy draft breeds of horses are more prone to the condition than lighter breeds.

Based on the belief that small pieces of gravel get caught in the sole of the foot and make their way up inside the hoof wall, causing an abscess, many laymen use the term "gravel," as in, "My horse has been graveled," when talking about this condition. This belief is erroneous, but has been passed down through the years and many horsemen accept it as truth.

Symptoms

  • Development of lameness that becomes increasingly severe
  • Hot, painful swelling usually in the skin of the coronary band region
  • Favoring of leg
  • Elevated temperature
  • Swollen pastern or leg
  • Dull and listless attitude
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst

Causes

External trauma to the foot from puncture wounds, wire cuts, stone bruises, or other injuries leads to infection that results in cartilaginous quittor, which is a chronic suppurative inflammation of the lateral cartilage.

In cutaneous quittor, the cause is often bacteria working its way through minor cracks in the hoof, forming abscesses in the laminae and soft tissue of the foot. This leads to formation of pus and development of pressure, causing lameness in the horse.

If no treatment is started, the abscess may soften and rupture which will give the horse some relief from the pain and pressure. If not treated, the bones and the joints may become infected.

Prevention

Careful routine attention to the horse's feet and hooves is the best prevention of quittor. Feet should be trimmed and shod on a regular basis to prevent hoof cracks from forming.

All puncture wounds, wire cuts, or other accidental injuries should be treated by cleaning them thoroughly, applying an antibiotic foot spray or other medication prescribed by a veterinarian, and watching closely for signs of deeper infection.

At the first sign of injury or lameness, the horse's feet should be checked and precautions taken to prevent infection or further injury.

Treatment

Treatment of quittor begins with diagnosing the extent of the disease and the location of the affected parts of the feet, hooves, and legs of the horse. The sole should be cleaned and a hoof tester should be used to determine where the horse experiences pain.

The area can be marked and a small hole drilled through the sole with a hoof knife to drain the abscess. Often, the pus will spray out because of the pressure within the hoof wall. The pus is often black in color. The area should be opened until it bleeds. Once opened, the tip of a syringe can be inserted into the abscess so it can be flushed out.

Some veterinarians recommend soaking a piece of cotton in iodine or another antiseptic solution and inserting it into the cavity. The horse should receive penicillin or antibiotics prescribed by the veterinarian twice daily for up to two weeks.

Soaking the foot in a warm Epsom salt solution can also be helpful. This should be done twice daily for up to a week.

If the infection has traveled up the leg and invaded the tissues of the pastern and lower leg, the horse will need to be placed on antibiotic treatment until complete recovery takes place.

In the case of cartilaginous quittor, the foot may need to be anesthetized and the tracts down to the cartilage opened. Infected cartilage is blue-green in color and all infected tissue will need to be removed.

A veterinarian should determine the best course of treatment, and systemic antibiotics are usually called for until healing has taken place. An X-ray of the foot will reveal the extent of the complications and the veterinarian will decide whether further surgery is necessary or if antibiotic therapy will be sufficient.

Tetanus antitoxin should be given if the horse is not fully vaccinated or if vaccination status cannot be determined.

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