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Equine Health Resource

Digital Pulse Can Be Felt in Foot

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  • If you notice any lameness or have any other concern.

On a normal healthy resting horse you should hardly be able to feel a digital pulse in the arteries of the foot at the rear of the fetlock or pastern.

An exaggerated digital pulse generally indicates inflammation in a foot and is often associated with any injury to or problem in the foot. Horses with a fever or other systemic illness may have a palpable digital pulse as well.

Occasionally a digital pulse will be obvious without any perceptible problem. Otherwise healthy horses that have exercised recently will have more palpable pulses than resting horses. Sometimes we simply don’t know why a horse has an elevated digital pulse in a foot.

An obvious digital pulse should prompt further investigation. The most important question is whether the horse is showing any signs of lameness or other abnormalities. In many cases, heat is also palpable in a hoof that has a problem. So look for these other signs and try to make a determination as to whether you think your horse has a problem.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to the presence of lameness. Compare the temperature of the hoof wall to the other feet, are they the same?

The most useful thing you can do to determine lameness is turn the horse in a sharp circle to both left and right (on a hard surface) and determine whether you notice any hesitation or lameness.

Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will determine whether this observation is an indication of a lameness problem or not by hearing your description of the problem. At that point you can make a decision as to whether or not to have the vet examine the horse.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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