Researchers Study Hoof Tissue Mechanics and Hydration

Linear elastic models commonly have been used when testing or modeling the material properties of the hoof wall. However, the stress-strain relationship for keratin in a highly deformable structure such as the hoof is nonlinear.

The physical properties of keratin vary by the amount of moisture present in the tissue. These characteristics are counter to the assumptions necessary for a valid application of a linear elastic model. Researchers examined the accuracy of using (non-linear) hyperelastic or viscoelastic models for the hoof wall and examined hoof wall deformation under different levels of hydration.

Comparing various mathematical models with data from published literature confirmed that linear elastic models failed to accurately describe the hoof tissue responses to loading. Hyperelastic models performed better in this regard, particularly at higher hydration levels. As expected, increasing hydration was associated with increased pliability of hoof wall material. This means hydration is inversely related to hoof wall stiffness and significantly affects strain distributions. In addition, higher stress distributions were found in the more proximal areas of the hoof just below the coronet.

The authors believe this may explain why hoof wall cracks sometimes form in this area.

—   Shahkhosravi NA et al. J Mech Behav Bio Materials 121;2021:in press

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Gain more insight from Dr. Albert Kane by reading Research Journal in the September/October 2021 issue of American Farriers Journal.

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Albert Kane

Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

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