Does Your Horse Have THRUSH?

Do their feet look like this? :-)

or like this? :-(


Thrush is not just an annoying but common fact of horse ownership.  It is a symptom of a bigger problem… either in the hoof form such as contraction and lack of frog stimulation, or environmental such as a dirty pen and lack of hygiene, or dietary such as high sugar diets, or a combination of several factors.  Nail holes from shoeing can introduce bacteria and fungal infection into the hoof wall and white line where it persists – sometimes years!  Heel pain can cause the horse to weight the toe and not land heel first, which can in turn cause the hoof to contract and the frog to get thrushy.  Or the frog can get thrushy for any of many reasons and in turn cause heel pain and resulting toe first landings, which becomes a vicious cycle.  Bad central sulcus thrush can even get into the frog corium.  Long term disease in the white line or inner wall causes flaring, separation, poor connection and eventually lameness and very severe hoof wall disconnection.

What can you do?

These suggestions are not in order, they cannot be separated from each other because a failure on one part of the system can cause failure to the rest.  Think of it holistically.

Make sure your horse is getting a trim which encourages comfortable movement.   Only the flaps and tags of the frog that are trapping the thrush and manure should be removed.  Removing too much frog, even when it is diseased, can sometimes lead to a very lame horse.  Good circulation, a heel first landing with a short breakover and a hoof that is neither over nor under trimmed will make each step a healing one.  There is therapy in this healthy movement in SO MANY WAYS!

Use preventative measures.  Make sure the area where your horse lives is clean.  Urine and manure break down the proteins in the hoof and create an ever more inviting place for thrush to thrive.  Anaerobic bacteria and fungus like dark, moist areas to grow.  Pick your horses feet out frequently to keep the pathogens from where they are not welcome.  Encourage your horse to move by riding him and providing him with a healthy lifestyle of friends and stimulation during turnout time.  Make sure your horse is a on a healthy diet – this means high fiber, low sugar and starch.  Keep a close eye on their feet so you know when things are going astray and can take action.

When necessary, use anti-thrush treatments. These are my recommendations for thrush treatments:

Deep central sulcus thrush: 

Albadry - antibacterial <novobiocin and penicillin> ointment, then “Pete’s Goo” 50/50 mixed triple antibiotic ointment with athlete’s foot antifungal cream. 

Albadry comes in a syringe with a thin, flexible plastic tube applicator.  This allows you to insert the ointment exactly where it is needed – deep into the central sulcus (center of the frog) of the hoof.  Once the Albadry container is empty, mix up the "Pete's Goo" and using the same tube, continue to use it every single day until there is no longer a crevice to squirt it into.  IT WORKS, but you have to be consistent and committed.  You can buy the Albadry from me, and then the ingredients for Pete's Goo yourself at the drug store.  Albadry is $4/tube. 

Overall mild thrush, nail holes, small separations, preventative use:

Sav A Hoof spray

I have had very good success with this easy to use spray on general hoof ‘funk’.  It bonds to the proteins in the hoof and prevents as well as treats infection, but is safe for horses, humans and the environment.  It is effective against stubborn candida yeast, fungus, mold, anaerobic and aerobic bacteria. Sav A Hoof is great to use when a horse is newly out of shoes to spray into the nail holes and often wimpy frogs to help keep any/further infection at bay.  It’s also good as a quick preventative spritz for healthy hooves going through a wet period or any other environmental issues that may encourage thrush growth.  You can purchase Sav A Hoof on line, or I sell it for $16/bottle.

Hoof wall separation, “white line disease”, “seedy toe”:

Oxine (chlorine dioxide)

Oxine has been shown to be effective against a staggering number of bacteria, molds, and fungus, yet it is very safe!  It has been used as a disinfectant in everything from dental irrigation to kennel cleaning, water in aviary incubators to hoof soaks.  Just like with the other recommendations, it requires consistency and diligence in use.  I recommend 2-3 soaks a week for a couple of weeks.  With oxine you do not need to trap the vapors such as with White Lightning, which means you can use a regular soaking boot or bucket for the soaks (vs. a sealed boot) if you desire.  To do a soak you would mix 2 ounces of oxine and ½ teaspoon of citric acid together, after 3 minutes add ½ gallon of water.  Soak for 20 minutes.  The mixture needs to make contact with the affected areas of the hoof you wish to treat.  Horses soaked for long periods above the hairline showed some bleaching of the hair at the coronet.   You can also use unactivated oxine (no citric acid) quite effectively, although it is recommended to soak for about double the length of time so around 40 minutes.   You can buy oxine and citric acid on line, or I sell it for $10/bottle. 



See also "Heels"

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