What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Digital Pulse Can Be Felt in Foot

Assess Heat & Digital Pulse in Feet


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.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you notice any lameness or have any other concern.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • To let the vet know of the development, and discuss a course going forward.

your role


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.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • Have you compared the digital pulse of this foot to the others?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • How does this foot compare in pulse and heat to the others?
  • Is there heat in the foot?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP