Vet discusses value of hoof care

Tye Chandler :
Posted January 23, 2019

Dr. Holly Haefele, director of animal health, has seen just about every Fossil Rim species with hooves require assistance from the staff at some point during her time at the wildlife center. For International Hoof Care Week, the veterinarian wanted to share her thoughts on the importance of hoof care, as well as some interesting photos from past procedures.

“Nettie” the giraffe (pictured) had severely abnormal hoof growth as a two-year-old. Dr. Holly Haefele said it was suspected to be a conformation problem, which is generally referenced regarding horses. Conformation, according to Dr. Ted Stashak, DVM, who wrote The Horseowner’s Guide to Lameness, is the outline of a horse as dictated primarily by its bone and muscle structures. However, conformation is not just addressing straight legs; it also is about the length of the bones, the angles of the joints, and the proportions and overall balance of the horse.

Hoof care is one element of a comprehensive preventive medicine plan for Fossil Rim’s ungulates – hooved animals including rhinos, equids, pigs, antelope, giraffes, and deer. Luckily, most animals are able to take good care of themselves.

Fossil Rim’s big spaces allow for enough movement to wear hooves naturally. However, some species and individuals need a bit more help, and that is when our animal care and animal health teams get involved.

“Nettie” the giraffe had two rounds of shoes placed on her hooves, including these glue-on wooden shoes.
The wooden shoes were placed on both feet of “Nettie” the giraffe for even footing, and then wrapped in casting material for extra support.

When a very large animal is the patient, or an animal that needs more sophisticated care, professional farriers are called upon. We have been lucky to work with a few excellent and generous farriers over the years, donating their time and care to some interesting patients, including giraffes, rhinos, roan antelope, Grevy’s zebras, Hartmann’s mountain zebras, and Przewalski’s horses. In fact, all of those species except roan have had to wear shoes of some sort over the years.

After four months of intensive work, the hoof looked much better. Now, as an adult, Nettie’s feet are considered totally normal.

When our Children’s Animal Center goats need routine hoof trimming, usually twice a year, it is a pretty simple procedure. Grab a goat, pick up a foot, and trim. If it is one of our African antelope, or really just about any other species than domestic goats, anesthetic drugs are needed to immobilize and sedate the animal before any hoof work can begin.

-Dr. Holly Haefele, Director of Animal Health 

A hoof trim is done on “Nettie” the giraffe. Her daughter “Nyla” also had similar hoof trouble requiring multiple corrective hoof trims.
Giraffe hoof care is a major undertaking, requiring a large crew, a farrier, and specialized farrier equipment. Giraffes are intubated with an endotracheal tube to protect the airway and provide better oxygen to the lungs, as shown here with “Nyla”.
A hoof trim on this Hartmann’s mountain zebra is performed in the pasture.
Hartmann’s mountain zebras are hard on their feet in the wild, and often their hooves grow long in captivity. This zebra is having a hoof trim at Fossil Rim’s veterinary clinic.
Sometimes a hoof trim needs to be done in the woods on the side of a steep hill, as was the case with this aoudad.
Sometimes things work out for the Fossil Rim staff. Like when this patient in need of a hoof trim, an aoudad, fell asleep in the road.
Przewalski’s horses occasionally need their hooves trimmed. As this photo indicates, a hardworking farrier is no stranger to a sore back.

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