Yes, there are proper ways of taking accurate x-rays for use by your founder specialist. Some vets will place the subject foot on one block, while leaving the other foot on the ground and then shoot the radiograph. This is usually fine for them, because they tend to look for breaks or fractures in bones or to see that there is indeed rotation. However, this is rather inaccurate, and often times useless, for the founder specialist working on your horse. I won’t go into great detail here, but I will list some basic ‘dos’ for taking accurate x-rays of the foundered foot. First, both feet (be they the front feet or the back feet) should be on level ground and both placed on equal height blocks. Both feet should be properly squared up for that horse’s body. Both feet should be bearing equal weight in order to accurately see the bone alignment inside the hoof and lower leg. Some type of metal should be placed just below the hairline of the center of the foot and should extend all the way to the ground and preferably wrap just under the lip of the ground surface of the toe. (This marker would be used for the lateral or outside views of the hoof.) There should also be a small, flat-headed thumbtack placed in the tip or the apex of the frog. (Again, this is more useful when taking lateral views of the hoof.) These markers provide an external guide to where the structures of the hoof are located with relationship to each marker. If the vet does not follow these guidelines, the quality and accuracy of the x-rays will be diminished. But make no mistake; x-rays are vital tools to have before working on any foundered horse!
A few ‘don’ts’ for x-ray taking would be, don’t take x-rays of underweighted or overweighted feet. Don’t take x-rays if the foot is not level on the ground. Don’t take x-rays from ‘off’ angles. Stick with the correct front to back, side to side, or bottom to top shots. Stay away from shots that are too high over the hoof, too low under the hoof or from any diagonal shots. There are times when perfect x-rays can’t be taken, such as if the horse is laying down and can’t stand up. Well, if this is the case and x-rays are called for, wish your vet all the luck you can that he or she can get the most accurate x-rays possible for that given situation. They may not be the best, but hopefully they will be good enough to tell the story of what’s going on inside the hoof. So cross your fingers.
Will blood tests help determine if my horse has foundered?
Well, no, not exactly. To date, there are no known enzymes or other chemicals released in the body that is known to be associated directly with founder. But, blood tests can be helpful in determining metabolic issues within the body and can be used to rule out various metabolic or hormonal disorders. Because of how the stress of founder can affect the body, some levels may be temporarily elevated and may in fact return to normal after the pain is managed or the founder is reversed. Follow up blood tests are suggested to determine if there is in fact a lingering disorder.