September 04, 2008 | | Comments 1

Horse Thrush

What is Horse Thrush?

Horse thrush is an infection of the horse hoof. The frog portion of the horse hoof is most notable part affected by the infection. It is not a fatal disease but it can harm the tissues of the hooves. If a horse owner is unable to recognize the infection and have it treated, the tissues could become severely damaged. This could lead to lameness in an infected horse.

Causes of Horse Thrush

There is some argument on whether or not horse thrush is caused by bacteria. It is possible that it could also be caused by fungi. In any case, whether it is fungi or bacteria, one thing is certain, the organism causing horse thrush needs an environment without oxygen to thrive. This is why they generally multiply in the hoof area where oxygen supply could be impeded by dirt in the hooves.

Horse owners generally conclude that horse thrush is the indirect result of an untidy environment. Although the bacteria or fungi causing the thrush love the lack of oxygen, they also thrive in a moist environment before they gain entry into the hoof area. A stable or paddock that is moist and dirty could therefore be an indirect cause of thrush. Aside from untidy surroundings, an untidy hoof could also naturally promote the development of thrush.

Horse Thrush Symptoms

Thrush usually appears as black fluid in the hoof area. The hoof may also smell very bad. A smelly hoof should not however immediately be taken as an immediate sign of thrush. A hoof that has not been cleaned would normally smell bad. Try to clean the hoof first. If the odor is present even after cleaning, thrush could be present. In some cases, horses infected with thrush may also experience some discomfort in soft areas of their hooves.

Horse Thrush Treatment

Horse Thrush should be treated as soon as symptoms appear. Immediate treatment will help prevent severe lameness. What you have to do first is to ensure that your horse’s hooves are clean and appropriately trimmed. You have to regularly clean the hooves to remove dirt. Trimming should also be on a regular basis but should not be overly done. Too much trimming could also result in possible damage to the soft tissues.

The thrush itself will already be affected through oxygen exposure. The condition is severe though, you may apply some remedies or medications. Home remedies include apple cider, bleach, betadine and hydrogen peroxide. There are also some chemical preparations available over the counter. Do be careful though, some remedies and products may be too harsh. If you use too much too frequently, you could end up damaging the tissues of the hooves too.

It is important to note that keeping horse stables and surroundings clean may also help a lot in preventing horse thrush.

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  1. Just a comment about thrush and to add what was already described here. Improper hoof balance/shape can cause lack of circulation in the frog, making it more succeptive to bacterial/fungal infection. This paired with an improper diet is the number one cause for demise of the frog area in the hoof.

    The one pictured (shod as well) is very unbalanced, with a thin, drawn forward, atrophied frog. The center of weight bearing is also completely out of whack….back of shoe is
    disecting the center of the frog, not directly under the heel bulb area. The entire heel has actually “sqeezed” itself out off the back of the shoe (due to the excessively long toe) and is displaced from the rest of the frog…..causing a lack of circulation and thus, infection.

    Weight bearing should be within a thumbs width of the heel bulb, at the back of the hoof. Center of hoof (widest part) should disect the very end of the frog (within 1/3 of the tip). Breakover point should be 1 1/2 thumb widths off the tip of the frog.

    If the hoof is maintained in these parameters, the frog will stay active and healthy. Unfortunately for this foot, two issues are going to perpetuate problems. 1) Shoe is forcing peripheral loading of the hoof wall….basically suspending the horse by it’s laminae…..oposite of how it should be.
    2) frog cannot reach the ground for stimulation and the pressure release action that creates healthy blood flow and proper support of the coffin bone.
    3) heels are “held” by the shoe, so little expansion happens at the back of the foot….which is supposed to happen to absorbe the shock/weight of the horse fully loading it.

    High sugar diets, lack of exercise, and hoof shape like pictured will ensure problems with hoof/frog health….and everything above it ;)

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