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.

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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How Important are Well Balanced Hooves?

Farrier Trimming Hoof

If you own a horse or grew up around horses, you have probably heard the saying “No Hoof, No Horse.” Many of us horse lovers take this statement to heart. Without healthy feet, a horse is unable to be a horse. Running, working, riding – all these activities become a chore; a painful chore at that.

The importance of a healthy hoof is well established, but what about a balanced hoof? Can an imbalanced hoof create hoof related issues? If so, what issues can arise from an imbalanced foot?

We took this question to Darren Owen, a professional farrier, and asked, “Is a balanced hoof important to hoof health?” Here is what he had to say:

“In my opinion the answer would be yes. The imbalanced foot may become predisposed to the invasion of Thrush or White Line Disease. When the hoof of the horse has greater weight responsibilities placed upon it in an uneven fashion it may distort. This distortion will promote the separation of the wall from the sole and allow for bacterial / fungal invasion. I recently had an opportunity to speak with a number of farriers on the topic of “Hoof wall separation.” While this conversation was taking place, imbalance and distortion were discussed as a cause of the wall separations that harbor tremendous bacterial / fungal invasions.”

We took the same question to Dave Giza, another professional farrier, and asked him about his experience with imbalanced hooves.

“When I trim and shoe a horse, I always pay very close attention to the placement/balance of the heels, how deep the cleft split of the frogs are (the groove/split that starts in the back of the central sulcus of the frog that transitions up the back of the heels and between the heel bulbs), and to the movement of the heel bulbs themselves.  If a horse has well balanced feet, with both heels contacting the ground at the same time, there will be very little independent movement of the heel bulbs, frog cleft/split will be shallow, and the horse will be sound.  If the trim is out of balance, with the medial side hitting first and then the lateral side or vice versa, there will be independent heel bulb movement and separation that will cause lameness issues.

Hoof Imbalance
Hoof Imbalance with cleft split starting at the frog central sulcas and splitting up into the hair line.

Separation of Heel Bulbs
Insertion of narrow blade vet knife into the frog cleft to show depth and separation of heel bulbs.

If you look at the hoof from the back and visualize a triangle (the base of the triangle having points at the medial and lateral side of the hoof and the top of the triangle at the apex of the frog cleft), this will present a better picture of what is actually happening.  When the base of the triangle hits evenly on the ground, there is no movement at the top of the triangle, just compression as the bulbs move as one unit.  However, if the triangle base hits the ground, one side first followed by the other, the top of the cleft will be forced to move from right to left or vice versa.  This imbalance will cause tearing and or shearing of the soft tissues between the heels, and deep heel splits that cause the heel bulbs to gap open and allow debris to enter into the cleft gap.  Now the stage has been set for infected/swollen sheared heels.  The debris that is lodged deep into the frog cleft becomes Thrush, the constant independent movement of each heel bulb and shearing causes the heel bulbs to become irritated and swell closed, the developing thrush is entrapped, and the result is a very sore heeled, lame horse.

frog cleft
Cleaning out debris from frog cleft.

Balanced Trim
Balanced trim with infected central sulcas and frog cleft.

I recently drove 700 miles to treat a horse named Cody diagnosed with equine Canker; however, Cody was misdiagnosed and rather suffered from infected, sheared heels.  Without a doubt, Cody’s issues were caused by improper trimming.  Upon examination, I found that the heels of each hoof were out of balance, causing heel bulb displacement with deep frog clefts penetrating up into the hairline and entrapping infection.  The infection not only compromised the heel bulbs, but had also started to compromise each frog.  I trimmed, balanced, thoroughly cleaned and treated each sheared/split heel on Cody’s hooves.”

Both farriers agree, balanced hooves are important to hoof health. As a farrier, it is extremely important to properly trim and balance each hoof. If this is not done correctly, more issues can arise and create further problems for you down the road. Horse owners must also pay close attention to this detail and do their part in picking and cleaning the feet on a regular basis. If you believe your horse’s hooves are imbalanced, do not be afraid to bring it up to your farrier or to seek the opinion of another farrier or veterinarian. If your horse’s hooves were trimmed improperly, it is important to have this fixed as soon as possible. A hoof supplement combined with a safe anti-microbial hoof clay and liquid will help the hooves recover from cracks, splits or other hoof related issues that arise from the hoof imbalance. Using a hoof supplement will also promote the health of the hoof and increase its growth rate.

 

 

A special thanks to:

Darren Owen, CF, APF
Indian Fields Farrier Service Inc.
Phone: (757) 478-1399
Email: indianfields@msn.com

Dave Giza, APF-1
Genesis Farriers
Phone: (571) 921-5822
E-mail: GenesisFarriers@aol.com

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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