A THRUSHY Hoof Isn’t a HEALTHY Hoof.

Horse Hoof with mild thrush

My horse’s hooves are healthy. They just have a little bit of Thrush,” is a statement we hear too often. Unfortunately, Thrush has become such a common occurrence for the domesticated horse that many horse owners do not give it the levity it deserves. It is important that the horse owner understands, a hoof with any amount of Thrush is NOT a healthy hoof!

In short, Thrush is a microbial invasion of the sulci, or the grooves surrounding the frog, that often leads to an infection in the tissue of the frog. In previous blogs we have discussed what causes Thrush. Your horse’s hooves can be predisposed to Thrush by:

  • High humidity and wet environments
  • Stalls containing urine, excrement and excess moisture
  • Lack of oxygen to the frog area due to packed debris
  • Poor hoof maintenance
  • Improper trimming

Exposing your horse to one or more of these factors can create conditions conducive for Thrush development. Once Thrush has established, address it immediately. Even mild Thrush can become serious quickly.

Thrush, The Hoof and The Horse Owner

The first steps in preventing or treating Thrush is to provide the necessary elements to promote the best quality hoof possible.

The health of your horse’s hooves is not your farrier’s responsibility alone. Treating and preventing Thrush will take joint effort from both you and your farrier. Thrush, and other hoof problems, will likely continue to develop and never resolve if you are not involved in the daily responsibility of caring for your horse’s hooves. Fulfilling this responsibility will help prevent future cases of Thrush. This responsibility can be broken down into three components.

  1. Maintenance
  2. Nutrition
  3. Environment

Hoof Maintenance

There is more to hoof maintenance than scheduling your farrier every six weeks. Proper hoof maintenance is a daily objective that the horse owner must manage.

  • Pick and Clean Hooves
    • A hoof packed with debris creates the perfect anaerobic, or low oxygen, environment for Thrush to develop and spread. As the horse owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your horse’s hooves are being picked clean daily.
    • If you remove the debris daily, Thrush will not likely have a suitable environment to develop.
  • Maintain a Regular Farrier Schedule
    • As mentioned in a previous blog, it is important to maintain a regular farrier schedule. Your farrier can help catch early signs of hoof related issues and assist in treating Thrush. Hooves that are grown out or not trimmed properly can trap unwanted debris, making it more difficult to keep the hoof clean and create an optimal environment for the growth of the anaerobic microbes associated with Thrush.
  • Remove Harmful Hoof Topicals
    • Many “Thrush Killing” hoof topicals on the market are caustic and damage or seal off healthy hoof tissue. This may kill the exposed Thrush microbes on the surface; however, the resulting denatured proteins not only seal the underlying tissue from oxygen, but also create a nutrient medium for any remaining microbes and future microbes to thrive. This often leads to patterns of recurring Thrush.
    • Ensure you are not applying any harmful chemicals. As a rule of thumb, do not utilize anything you would not apply to your own skin.
Cycle of Thrush in horses
The Cycle of Equine Thrush

Equine Nutrition

You may be asking, “What role does Nutrition play when fighting Thrush?” Nutrition plays a vital role in the development of a healthy hoof. A healthy hoof is more resilient to the bacteria that causes Thrush. As the horse owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your horse receives a balanced diet that supports hoof health. You can learn more about proper equine nutrition here.

  • Hoof Supplementation
    • A quality hoof supplement can assist in developing new and healthier hoof growth. The nutrients provided will also strengthen the hoof, making it more resilient to chips and cracks, acting as entry points for the microbial invasions that lead to crumbly hoof horn, White Line Disease and Thrush. This new growth will also quicken the recovery time of the hoof.

Environment

Even with proper maintenance and nutrition, the environment can wreak havoc on your horse’s hooves. Most cases of Thrush are predisposed by environmental conditions. Leaving your horse in wet and mucky areas or in unclean paddocks can quickly destroy the hoof. You will promote chronic Thrush if your horse is regularly being exposed to these environments. It is important to consistently manage the environment surrounding your horse.

Poor environmental conditions for hooves
Poor Environmental Conditions for Hooves
  • Environmental Management
    • Keep stalls clean of excrement and as dry as possible.
    • Limit exposure, if possible, to wet and muddy paddocks and pastures.
    • Regularly apply a non-caustic hoof conditioner to control moisture balance, bind ammonia from excrement and kill bacteria.

When left unchecked, Thrush can become a serious issue and even lead to lameness. It is important to act at the first signs of Thrush and not wait until it becomes more serious. Through proper hoof management, horse owners can not only treat current cases of Thrush but can also prevent future cases from developing. Always consult your farrier and veterinarian if your horse develops any hoof related issue. If you have any questions on treating Thrush or on any Life Data® product, please contact us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com or call us at 1-256-370-7555.

What Creates the Foul Odor of Thrush?

A strong rotting smell is a well-known indicator of Thrush. If you’re a farrier or horse owner, you probably know the smell well. For those unaccustomed to the smell, it is like that of a rotten egg. The odor radiates from the hoof, making regular hoof cleanings and farrier work more foul-smelling than usual. So, what causes Thrush to smell? In this blog, we will sniff out the answer to this question.

Hoof Anatomy and Structure

Your horse’s hooves are comprised of connective tissue proteins. Connective tissue is rich in the mineral sulfur. The sulfur provides the “welds,” or crosslinks, in the connective tissue protein. These crosslinks are responsible for the structural integrity of the hoof capsule. If the bonds are weakened or destroyed, the structural integrity of the hoof will be compromised.

Thrush and the Microbial Invasion

Thrush is an invasion of “hoof-eating” microbes into the connective tissue of the sulci surrounding the frog and heel. These anerobic microbes thrive in low oxygen environments, such as the deep sulci and clefts surrounding the frog. Once the organisms begin dividing in the frog sulci, the stage is set for a progressive invasion and infection.

How Thrush Affects the Hoof

The anerobic microbes consume the connective tissue proteins, including the sulfur, and excrete volatile sulfur compounds as waste. The rotten egg smell we associate with Thrush is the odor of the sulfur being released by the microbes. The same smell occurs during hot-shoeing. The odor produced is the smell of sulfur gas from burning the sulfur-rich connective tissue proteins of the hoof.

Thrush can be devastating to the hoof. As the sulfur crosslinks are destroyed the connective tissue becomes weakened, compromising the structural integrity of the hoof.

It is important to talk to your veterinarian and farrier if your horse develops Thrush. Regular use of a non-caustic hoof topical, such as Life Data® Hoof Clay® and Farrier’s Finish®, can be used as a measure against Thrush. Adding a balanced hoof supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength, to your horse’s diet can also help build a stronger hoof capsule that is more resilient to infections and other hoof related issues. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873.

Overly Dry Hooves

Dry Hooves

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of summer? Lemonade stands? Swimming or summer vacations? Sunscreen or the intense heat? Maybe it is something else entirely. Here at Life Data® the first thing that comes to mind is dry hooves. Although the idea of a “dry hoof” is usually positive, there is a point where dry can become too dry. During the summer, we see a rise in dry hooves due to moisture imbalance resulting from environmental conditions that are too hot and dry.  In this blog, we discuss the problems that can develop with overly dry hooves, and methods to maintain moisture balance.

Consider your own skin. When our skin becomes excessively dry it can begin to flake, crack, or even split. Our skin loses elasticity and weakens. The same occurs to a horse’s hoof. When hooves become excessively dry they lose integrity. Once the hoof integrity begins to deteriorate, several other issues can develop.

 Hoof Quality and Structure

  • Low moisture balance in the hooves can lead to loss of elasticity and a brittle hoof that is more likely to crack, chip, split and crumble. The compromised hoof quality can impede your horse’s ability to work, train, or hold a shoe.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections

  • Your horse’s external hoof wall acts as a barrier against the germ-laden environment. Cracks and chips create a passage way for bacteria to enter the hoof capsule. This presents an opportunity for “hoof-eating” microbes to gain access to the nutrient-rich middle hoof wall. These organisms multiply and further weaken the hoof wall, leading to additional defects and a collapsing hoof horn. Microbial invasions also promote hoof wall separations and the development of White Line Disease.

Maintaining moisture balance is the main objective when attempting to prevent overly dry hooves. Unfortunately, adding moisture to the environment won’t necessarily solve the problem. Just like human skin and nails, your horse’s hooves are composed of dermal tissue. This tissue contains phospholipids that control moisture balance within the hoof. These phospholipids can become overwhelmed in environments that are excessively wet or dry. In other words, rapid changes in moisture from wet to dry can adversely affect the integrity of the hoof. Frequent bathing, pop-up thunderstorms and soaking hooves can all negatively impact the hoof during the summer, especially if the hoof is not properly cleaned and dried afterward. The best way to maintain moisture balance within the hoof is to assist the phospholipids in doing their job. You can do that two ways:

1. Keep Moisture changes to a minimum

  • Restrict your horse’s exposure to excess moisture.
  • Keep your horse in a clean and dry environment.

2. Use a proven hoof conditioner regularly

  • Regularly apply a hoof conditioner that contains phospholipids to promote correct moisture balance.
  • Ensure the conditioner does not contain harmful ingredients and does not block oxygen.
  • A hoof conditioner with antimicrobial properties may help control cracks and crumbling horn.

3. Phospholipid supplementation

  • Feeding a hoof supplement that contains fatty acids and phospholipids will help assist the hoof in regulating moisture balance.
  • Other nutrients provided in the hoof supplement such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals will help build a stronger and healthier hoof that is less prone to crack, chip, split, and crumble.

Moisture balance is a key factor in controlling the environmental conditions that will affect overall hoof health. If not controlled, your horse can develop several issues that will negatively impact its hooves. Maintaining a regular farrier schedule and feeding a quality hoof supplement also assist in managing healthy hooves. Consult your farrier and veterinarian if you have any questions. You may also call us at 1-800-624-1873.

Suggested Hoof Topical for moisture control: Farrier’s Finish®

Suggested Hoof Supplement: Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Download Our Life Data® Hoof Care Booklet

Debunking Hoof Remedies for Equine Thrush

Farrier on Hoof with Thrush

No horse owner wants to pick up the hoof of their horse to find the signs of thrush staring back at them. Seeing that blackish discharge associated with thrush or even catching a whiff of its unpleasant odor can ruin anyone’s day. We do a lot to maintain the health of our horse’s hooves, and fighting thrush can sometimes seem like a never-ending battle. There are many tips and home hoof remedies that claim to be the answer to curing thrush, but many of these “remedies” only allow the infection to spread or kills the microbes only on the surface. As equine science has progressed over the years, many of these “remedies” are now red flagged and known to cause more harm than help. Unfortunately, many of these substances that were once deemed “safe” are still being used today to treat equine thrush.  Much of this is to do to a misinformed public or even due to the tradition of use. In this article, we will discuss many of these unsafe or ineffective practices, and what to look for when finding a proper answer to thrush.

Caustic Chemicals Are Harmful to the Sole and Frog

It is important to remember that, as tough as the hoof capsule may seem, it’s approximately 95% protein. This is the same as your own hair and skin and is likewise susceptible to damage. Application of a caustic chemical to the frog and sole essentially “chemically cooks” the exposed proteins. Yes, you may be killing many of the microbes causing the infection, but you are doing so at a cost to good sole and frog tissue. The resulting necrotic tissue not only becomes a food source for additional microbes, but the damage to the proteins seals off oxygen therefore reducing the tissue’s ability to breathe. The surviving deeper-seated microbes have a low oxygen environment to divide with subsequent re-eruption weeks later. Chemically cooking the surface proteins to create a deeper low oxygen environment hasn’t solved the problem but has counter-productively created a recurring problem. Many horse owners who use caustic materials to fight thrush will find themselves fighting the problem repeatedly as the microbial invasion returns over time.

Caustic Chemicals can Create Fear of Treatment

Caustic materials can induce discomfort if the deeper sensitive tissue of the frog is affected from moderate to severe thrush. Many horses will begin associating the chemical treatment with pain. This can cause the horse to become uneasy during regular hoof maintenance and create unnecessary problems for you or your farrier. In some instances, the horse may even begin to refuse to pick up their hooves entirely. Harmful Chemicals for HorseSome horse owners may associate this as “bad behavior,” when in truth it is not bad behavior. It is a fear of pain. To avoid creating pain, a good rule of thumb is to never apply anything onto your horse’s hooves that you would not apply to your own skin.

Examples of Unsafe Caustic Chemicals: Copper Sulfate, Bleach, Turpentine, Formaldehyde

Don’t Use Materials that Block Oxygen

We briefly mentioned that caustic chemicals will denature proteins of the hoof and reduce the hoof’s ability to breathe. Oxygen can also be blocked to the hoof from packed debris or from the application of grease and oils to the sole and frog. The microbes that cause thrush thrive in areas with little to no oxygen. To prevent or treat thrush we must ensure that we are not nurturing the microbes by cutting off the supply of oxygen. This is why it is also important to clean and pick the hoof every day and maintain a clean environment for your horse. Many of these oils and greases that are “home remedies” will restrict the amount of oxygen to the tissue, creating a perfect environment for thrush and other hoof related diseases. The low oxygen environment not only creates an ideal site for the organisms of thrush, but also encourages “hoof eating” microbes to invade defects of the hoof wall structure leading to additional defects and collapsing hoof horn.

Examples of Oxygen Blocking Chemicals: Petroleum Based Tar, Motor Oil, Axel Grease, Pine Tar, Bacon Grease

Bacon grease not only blocks oxygen from the tissues, but the salt also overly hardens the sole and hoof wall to decrease elasticity and increase the likelihood of cracks and other defects occurring.

Also note that wrapping a foot capsule with plastic wrap and other non-breathable materials creates an ideal environment for the microbes of thrush to divide.

Remedies for Equine ThrushFinding the Right Treatment for Thrush

We encourage you to stay away from “home hoof remedies” because many of these items are caustic, will block oxygen, are untested, or simply have no impact on the health of the hoof. There are many remedies and treatments for thrush on the market, but many are still using the harmful ingredients we mentioned above. When looking for the right treatment, pay attention to the ingredients and ensure they do not contain any material that could be harmful. Make sure it is safe to use on your own skin and contains natural ingredients. Here are a few other tips to finding the correct treatment:

  • Contains non-caustic ingredients
  • Does not block oxygen
  • Contains safe anti-microbial ingredients such as Tea-Tree oil and/or low levels of iodine
  • Contains anti-microbial ingredients that penetrate into tissue
  • A product that stays in the sulci for extended periods of time

Thrush can lead to serious problems for your horse and finding the correct treatment can be difficult. If you begin to see signs of thrush it is important to tackle the issue efficiently and correctly before it leads to lameness. To treat and prevent thrush we strongly encourage the use of a non-caustic antimicrobial hoof clay that will stay in place for extended periods. The same product can fill and protect hoof defects, nail holes, and wall separations.

You can visit our website to find further information on the causes, treatment, and prevention of thrush. Always consult your farrier and veterinarian on any hoof related issues. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 1-800-624-1873.

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Hoof Care Doesn’t Stop in the Winter.

Worse walking in snow

Winter is in full force and Jack Frost is blanketing many of our pastures with snow, freezing rain, and ice. Many of us are now concentrated on keeping our horses healthy, while maintaining body condition through this cold spell. We all have different routines we practice to keep our beloved horses as comfortable as possible during these months. We can debate all day between blankets VS a horse’s natural coat, or even more barn time VS more pasture time – but the one thing we cannot argue about is that proper hoof care doesn’t stop in the winter. Providing a balanced diet, staying on top of any hoof problems caused by the environment, and routine farrier work is a year-round effort.

Worse walking in snow

It doesn’t take an expert to see that any amount of snow is going to leave our pastures wet and muddy, and as we have discussed in previous articles, wet and muddy conditions can create the perfect environment for “hoof eating” microbes to thrive. Prolonged exposure to water can soften the hoof capsule, leading to stretching and separation of the white line area. Regardless of how much pasture time you are allocating to your horse during the winter, ensure to properly clean and dry the hooves before moving your horse back into the barn.

Even if your horse is not spending a lot of time out in the cold environment, it is still important to regularly clean your horse’s hooves. Some horse owner’s may choose to restrict pasture time due to the freezing weather. Extended periods of time in a stall might keep your horse warmer, but this confinement can create hoof problems as well. While stalled, your horse will be standing in its own waste. This exposes the hooves to different bacteria that will affect the health of the hooves. Regularly cleaning your horse’s hooves and maintaining a clean environment for your horse can help prevent problems, but issues such as Thrush or White Line Disease can develop if left unchecked.

Farrier Applying Hoof Topical

Even with regular cleaning, sometimes you may need a little extra help maintaining the health of your horse’s hooves. Regularly feeding Farrier’s Formula® will provide the nutrients your horse needs to promote stronger and healthier hooves. These stronger hooves will be more resilient to problems such as White Line Disease and will help prevent the softening of the hoof capsule. Farrier’s Finish® and Life Data® Hoof Clay® may be applied after cleanings to help fight and kill any “hoof-eating” microbes. These products will also help maintain hoof quality, and are non-caustic to you and your horse. We also recommended talking with your farrier and veterinarian to create a plan to properly care and maintain your horse’s hooves. Regular farrier and veterinarian visits are always recommended. Farrier visits should not be eliminated because of the winter season.

If you have any questions please feel free to call us at 1-800-624-1873 or e-mail us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

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