What is thrush? Thrush is a bacterial infection of the hoof, most commonly seen in the sulci (or grooves) and frog area. The bacteria is anaerobic, so it lives without oxygen, which makes your horse’s hoof the perfect spot for thrush. Advanced cases can extend to the sole and white line, and when thrush affects the sensitive areas horses can become painful and lame. It’s always advisable to work with your Veterinarian before you begin any treatment, as there are dozens of things that can happen to horse hooves. You want to be sure the proper diagnosis and treatment are in place.
What we see during a case of thrush is a black paste. However, it’s likely that you will smell it before you see it! The distinct, rancid odor of rotting flesh is a sure fire sign of thrush.
So how do you treat a case of thrush? Most over the counter topical applications are affordable and easy to use. Make sure the hoof is clean and dry before you apply! Begin by cleaning away the blackened, diseased tissue. You may want to have your farrier or vet help you with this. You can touch up the area with your hoof pick and brush several times a day. After the hoof has dried, apply your topical treatment. A mild case should clear up quickly (under 3 days.) For cases that don’t clear up quickly, or have gone deeper, please consult your Veterinarian again. Lameness is a very real possibility.
I know some of you like to use bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Do not suggest using these products, the hoof is living tissue that is damaged and wounded by thrush. Research tells us that bleach and hydrogen peroxide actually lengthen the healing time and can cause significant pain. There are lots of great options available to you at your local tack or feed shop, and most of them come in fancy colors.
After application of your chosen medication, try and keep everything clean and dry. Hoof Wrap Bandages work over the hoof and shoe to help the healing process. These hoof bandages keep the medicine in while helping to keep the dirt and debris out. The bottom line is to be diligent about picking and inspecting your horse’s hooves. If you see (or smell) something funky, start to treat right away!
Help your horse keep his shoes on! Consider your horse's diet, farrier routine, and even how wet or dry his paddocks are. Learn some quick tips for helping your horse keep his shoes on.
The digital pulse is one way to get an instant reading of your horse’s hoof health! This pulse is found at the fetlock, and often reflects pain and inflammation in the hoof. Generally speaking, you may not be able to feel the digital pulse if the hoof is healthy and uninjured. However, as inflammation sets in, the pulse begins to strengthen and can often be strong to the point of bounding. This could be a sign of an abscess, a bruise, or laminitis. Your Veterinarian should always be called for any signs of hoof distress to rule out laminitis and start treatments.
The hoof is subject to stones, uneven terrain, bruises, thrush, and more! These are all situations in which a little tea tree and jojoba come in handy.
Always loop your Veterinarian in when your horse develops a hoof issue, to rule out laminitis and other painful conditions.