Definition. - A solution of continuity of the horn of the foot, occurring usually in the wall, and following the direction of the horn fibres.
Classification. - It is usual to classify sand-cracks according to -
(a) Their Position. - Toe-crack when occurring in the middle line of the horn of the toe, and quarter-crack when occurring in the horn of the quarters.
Sand-crack of the frog and sand-crack of the sole may also each be met with. They are, however, of rare occurrence, and are seldom serious enough to merit special attention.
The toe-crack is met with more often in the hind-foot than in the fore, while the quarter-crack more often than not makes its appearance in the fore-foot, and is there, as a rule, confined to the inner side. The reasons for these positions being so affected we shall deal with when treating of the causes of sand-crack in general. It is interesting to note that the portions of wall known as inside and outside toe are seldom affected.
(b) Their Length. - Complete when they extend from the coronary margin of the wall to its wearing edge; Incomplete when not so extensive.
(c) Their Severity. - Simple when they occur in the horn only, and do not implicate the sensitive structures beneath; Complicated when deep enough to allow of laceration and subsequent inflammation of the keratogenous membrane. Such complications may vary from a simple inflammation set up by laceration and irritation of the sensitive structures by particles of dirt and grit that have gained entrance through the crack, to other and more serious changes in the shape of the formation of pus, haemorrhage from the laminal vessels, caries of the os pedis, or the development of a tumour-like growth of horn on the inner surface of the wall known as a keraphyllocele.
(d) Their Duration. - Recent when newly formed; old when of long standing.
(e) Their Starting-point. - This last distinction we make ourselves, and, referring to cracks of the wall, term them high when commencing from the coronary margin, low when starting from the bearing surface.
Causes. - We have already classified sand-crack as a disease arising from faulty conformation. Thus, in just so far as a predisposing build of body may be handed down from parent to offspring, we may regard sand-crack as hereditary. If we do so, however, we must afterwards make up our minds to sharply distinguish between the sand-crack plainly brought about by accidental cause, and that occurring as a result of hereditary evil conformation.
With regard to the latter, we need hardly say that feet with abnormally brittle horn are extremely liable. But with this, as with many other affections of the feet, we shall find it necessary to consider several causes acting in cooperation. In this case, for instance, given the brittle horn, it becomes necessary to further look for exciting causes of its fracture.
We will take conformation first. In the animal with turned-out toes a more than fair share of the body-weight is imposed on the horn of the inner quarter. Here, then, three causes exert their influence together: The horn is brittle; the wall of the inner quarter is thinner than that of the outer; additional weight is imposed upon it. Fracture results.
Take, again, the vice of contracted heels. Here, in the first place, we have a variety of causes tending to bring about the contraction. With the contraction, and its consequent pressure upon the sensitive structures in the region of the quarters and the frog, has arisen a low type of inflammation. The horn of the part has become dry and brittle. The exciting cause of its fracture is found in an excessive day's work upon a hard, dry road, with, perhaps, a suddenly-imposed improper distribution of weight, due to treading upon a loose stone, or a succession of such evil transfers of weight due to travelling upon a road that is rough in its whole extent.
In their turn, too, such defects of the feet as we have mentioned in the last chapter - as, for example, the foot with the pumiced horn, the foot with abnormally upright heels, or that which is upright on one side only, or crooked - each offers a condition which is predisposing to the formation of a sand-crack. In each case it wants but the uneven distribution of the body-weight, which, as a matter of fact, some of these conditions themselves give, to bring about a fracture.
Apart from the predisposition conferred by conformation, must be remembered the simpler predisposing causes leading to brittleness of the hoof. We refer to the after-effects of poulticing, the moving from pasture to stable, the emigration from a damp to a dry climate, or the alternate changes from damp to dry in a temperate region. Each may have a deteriorating influence upon the horn, rendering it liable to the condition we are describing. Excessive dampness alone, especially when the animal is called upon to labour at the drawing of heavy loads upon a rough road, is not infrequently a cause. In this case the wet, together with the constant friction of the sharp materials of which the road is made, serves to destroy the varnish-like periople. The wet gains access to the inner structures of the wall, the agglutination of the horn fibres is weakened, and fissures begin to appear.
Other causes of sand-crack are purely accidental. An animal at fast work over-reaches. The secretion of horn at the injured coronet is interfered with, a diminished supply at an isolated spot being the result. From this point grows down a fissure in the wall.
An injury of the same character may also be sustained in various other ways - treads from other animals when working in pairs, accidental wounding with the stable-fork, blows of any kind, or a self-inflicted tread with the calkin of an opposite foot - each with the same result.
So far as causation is concerned, toe-crack stands in a class almost by itself. It is met with nearly always in a heavy animal in the hind-foot, and is directly attributable to the force exerted in starting a heavy load.
Unskilful shoeing also plays a part in the causation of sand-crack. Removal of the periople by excessive rasping of the wall is most certainly a predisposing cause. Cracks, or their starting-points, may also be caused by using too wide a shoe, or by the use of nails too large in the shank. Also, they may arise from unskilful fitting of the toe-clip, especially in the hind-foot of a heavy animal. It must be admitted, however, that the part shoeing plays in the causation of sand-crack is not a large one; far more depends upon the state of the horn and the animal's conformation than upon the exciting cause.
So far, our observations on the causes of sand-crack have referred to that form occurring in the wall. Sand-crack of the sole or frog we have already said is but seldom met with, and then it is always in connection with some exceptionally deteriorated quality of the horn, as in the case of badly pumiced feet, or occurs as a result of direct injury. Extensive slit-like cuts in this region, when deep enough to lacerate the keratogenous membrane, are sometimes followed by the growth of a fissure in the horn, and what might almost be termed a permanent sand-crack results. Such cuts may be occasioned by sharp flints, broken glass, or other sharp objects picked up on the road, or may result from the animal treading on the toe-clip of a partially cast shoe.