Pedal Osteitis

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Also Known As

Inflamed pedal bone


Pedal osteitis is an inflammatory reaction on the lower edge of the pedal bone, characterized by bone problems and blood flow changes. If the inflammatory reaction is not treated, it can cause demineralization or thinning of the bone that is sometimes impossible to reverse.

Since clinical signs of pedal osteitis are similar to signs of navicular disease, chronic laminitis, coffin/pedal bone fracture, and corns, care must be taken to rule out these causes before treatment is initiated.


  • Lameness with reluctance to extend on forward part of stride
  • Pain
  • Inflammation


Pedal osteitis is usually caused by concussive trauma from routinely jumping or being worked or ridden on a hard surface. Thoroughbreds, racing quarter horses, jumpers, and horses driven routinely on hard road surfaces are at a high risk of sole bruising that can lead to long-term inflammation and pedal osteitis.

Low grade infections, abscesses or puncture wounds, laminitis, or navicular problems are also considered possible causes. In addition, localized impact bruising, poor trimming or shoeing techniques that can lead to formation of chronic corns or hematomas between the layers of the sole, and genetic predisposition may be factors in the development of this condition.


Early detection of any symptoms that could lead to pedal osteitis is the best prevention. Awareness of the horse's working environment and the concussive nature of the work load can inform decisions about work load time-off.

The feet should be checked often, and any bruising or puncture wounds taken seriously and cared for immediately. An experienced farrier who is familiar with the physical demands made on the horse can develop a regular trimming and shoeing schedule and adapt shoes so that they work well for the horse's activities.

Owners and handlers should educate themselves about proper treatment of the horse's hooves and feet. In addition, expectations about performance should be realistic for each horse. Horses that have poor hoof characteristics and histories of lameness should not be bred, except under special circumstances, to prevent problems in their offspring.


Treatment of pedal osteitis must be based on the cause of the condition. Given the many possible causes, a thorough examination of the feet using hoof testers, an X-ray examination, and a detailed history of the horse's hoof and feet problems are necessary before treatment can begin. Treatment of the underlying cause is paramount in halting and perhaps reversing the condition.

Removal from work, combined with therapy, will speed the healing process. In some cases, the horse may not be able to return to work.

Care should be taken to trim and shoe the hoof to prevent the sole from making contact with the ground and receiving pressure. The use of special pads may be recommended by the farrier, but care should be taken to make sure the pads do not aggravate the lameness.

Rubber shoes have proven to be helpful in both mild and chronic cases of pedal osteitis. They should be used in a cycle with regular shoes since some concussive force is healthy for the horse.

The farrier may recommend topical application of hoof hardeners when the horse has thin soles. Hoof hardeners should be used with care.

Drug therapy in the area where a nerve block would be performed may be used to provide temporary analgesic relief to the underlying tissue. Systemic anti-inflammatories may be used to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Although not recommended often, a neurectomy of the palmar digital nerves will provide pain relief in extreme cases. The downside of performing this procedure is that the horse may work harder, with continued damage to the area. In addition, frequent routine checking of feet and hooves becomes necessary to ensure that bruises, abscesses, and infections do not develop because, without pain, the horse will give no indication of developing problems.

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EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.