Nail Bind and Nail Prick/Quick in Horses

By Deidre M. Carson, BVSc, MRCVS & Sidney W. Ricketts, LVO, BSc, BVSc, DESM, DipECEIM, FRCPath, FRCVS.

When a farrier shoes a horse, accurate placement of each nail through the insensitive epidermal laminae of the hoof is essential. The nail must penetrate deep enough to hold firm, but not deep enough to penetrate the sensitive laminae of the hoof. If it does, pain, infection and lameness can result.

What are 'nail bind' and 'nail quick'?

Nail 'bind' is a term used to describe an accident where the nail has been driven too close, whereas nail 'quick' is used where the nail has been driven through the sensitive lamina.

How can 'nail bind' and 'nail quick' be diagnosed?

nail_bind-1Lameness occurs, sometimes not immediately, and usually the next day or sometimes even within the first week after shoeing. There is an increased pulse in the palmar digital arteries (digital pulse) when these arteries are felt with a finger at the horse's heel. There is pain on percussion of the hoof with a hammer or similar object, or on the application of hoof testers, directly over the head of the offending nail. The horse may resent removal of the offending nail.

How can 'nail bind' and 'nail quick' be treated?

The shoe should be removed, any pus drained, and the nail hole flushed with antiseptic solution. A poultice should be applied to the foot to help draw the abscess. In simple cases, diagnosed and treated early, this usually produces rapid relief.

Tetanus antitoxin must be given, if the horse is not fully vaccinated up to date or if vaccination status cannot be confirmed.

In severe cases or for those who have not received early diagnosis and treatment, infection may track under the sole, or even track up to and burst out from the coronary band. In such cases, local resection (surgical removal) of the necrotic sole and/or wall, and a course of antibiotic treatment may be necessary.

Once the horse is sound, with no discharge from the nail hole, careful re-shoeing may be resumed.

How can 'nail bind' and 'nail quick' be prevented?

Make sure that your horses' feet are regularly trimmed and shod, by a competent farrier, who will do his best to ensure accurate nail placement. Nevertheless, accidents will occasionally happen and are usually quickly overcome provided the horse received early diagnosis and treatment.

Specific nutritional supplements may help to encourage good horn quality, helping the farrier to achieve accurate nail placement. Feed supplements containing zinc, biotin and methionine may help to aid good quality hoof growth, especially for those horses with naturally brittle feet. Those with naturally brittle feet may also benefit from being fed gelatine.

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