Definition. - Under the heading of simple coronitis in its acute form we intend to describe those inflammatory conditions of the skin and underlying structures of the coronet occurring without specific cause. Specific coronitis will be found described in Chapter IX (Inflammatory Affections Of The Keratogenous Apparatus. A. Acute Laminitis).
Causes. - This condition is almost invariably set up by an injury - either a bruise or an actual wound - to the coronet. By far the most common among such injuries are those inflicted by the animal himself by means of the shoes.
That known as 'tread' is caused by the shoe on the opposite foot, and may happen in a variety of ways. More often than not it is met with in the feet of heavy draught animals, and is there caused by the calkin, either when being violently backed or suddenly turned round. It may also occur in horses with itchy legs, as a result of the animal rubbing the leg with the shoe of the opposite limb. The irritation in this case is nearly always due to parasitic infection (Symbiotes equi), and becomes sometimes so unbearable as to render the animal unmindful of the injury he may be inflicting so long as he experiences the relief obtained by the rubbing.
Self-inflicted tread is also sometimes met with when horses are worked abreast at plough. The animal in the furrow, with one foot sometimes in and sometimes out of the hollow, is caused to make a false step, and so brings the injury about.
Animals worked in pairs are further liable to receive a tread from the foot of their companion. This is commonly seen in heavy animals at agricultural labour in fields, where the walking is uneven, and abrupt turning constant. It is not uncommon either in animals at work in vans in town, and is occasionally met with in the feet of carriage-horses.
'Overreach' is the term used to indicate the injury inflicted on the coronary portion of the heel of the fore-foot by the shoe of the hind. Ordinarily, overreach occurs when the animal is at a gallop, and is thus met with in its severest form in hunters and steeplechasers. It can only occur when the fore-foot is raised from the ground and the hind-foot of the same side reached right forward. When the feet separate the injury takes place. In its movement backwards the inner border of the shoe of the hind-foot catches the coronet of the fore, and tears it backwards with it. Quite frequently a portion of the skin is removed entirely, but often it hangs as a triangular flap. The flap in such a case is always attached by its hindermost edge, and indicates plainly enough that the direction of the blow that cut it must have been from before backwards.
Although ordinarily inflicted at the gallop, the same injury may, nevertheless, be caused by allowing a fast trotter, and one with extreme freedom of action behind, to push forward at the utmost limit of his pace. The outside heel is the one most subject to the injury.
While the common form of injury to the coronet is, as we have described, that occasioned by the animal's own shoe, or that of a companion, it is evident that the foot is also open to similar injuries from quite outside sources. Falls of the shafts when unyoking animals from a heavy cart, blows or wounds from the stable fork, wounds resulting from the foot becoming fixed in a gate or a fence, either may equally well set up the mischief.
Apart from severe injury, a particularly troublesome form of coronitis may arise from the condition of the roads. We refer to the conditions attendant on a thaw after snow. The animal is called upon to labour in, or perhaps stand for long periods in, a mixture of snow and water, or snow and mud. That this must have a prejudicial effect upon the structure of the coronet is plain. The circulation of the part, already predisposed to sluggishness by reason of its distance from the heart, is farther impeded by the action of the cold. Small abrasions of the skin, so small as to scarce be noticeable, are in this case freely open to infection with the septic matter the mud contains. Necrosis and consequent sloughing of the skin is bound to follow, and an extensive ulcerous wound, or a spreading suppuration of the coronary cushion is the result.
Symptoms. - We will take first the case in which no actual wound is observable. Here the first indication of the trouble is the appearance of an inflammatory swelling, confined usually to one side, but extending sometimes to the whole of the coronet. Always the part is hot and tender, and with it the patient is lame - so much so, in many cases, as to be unable to put the foot to the ground, the toe alone being used.
In a mild case, uncomplicated by septic infection, these symptoms rapidly subside, and resolution occurs.
Always, however, the presence of septic infection must be suspected and looked for. When this has occurred, the inflammatory swelling becomes larger and more diffuse, and the animal fevered. This is then followed by a slough of the injured part. A portion of the skin first becomes gray, or even black, in appearance, and around it oozes an inflammatory exudate, or even pus. The skin immediately adjoining the spot of necrosis is swollen and hyperaemic, and extremely painful and sensitive. Later, the necrosed portion becomes cast off, and an open wound remains. This as a rule marks the turning-point in the case. The pain and other symptoms rapidly abate, and the wound, with proper attention, is not more than ordinarily difficult to treat.
In the case of an actual wound the symptoms are probably less severe. The injury is, in this instance, the sooner detected, and remedial measures put into operation. In this manner the formation of septic material is often checked, and nothing but the treatment of a simple wound demands attention.