Spotting & Treating Equine Hoof Thrush
Thrush is a fungal infection of the frog, which is found in the central and lateral grooves. It can be identified by the presence of a black, rotting flesh and an extremely foul smell. In severe cases, the infection may penetrate the horny tissues and the sensitive structures of the hoof, which can lead to lameness.
The main causes of thrush are unhygienic conditions, for example when horses are kept in poorly managed stables that are not thoroughly mucked out daily. Horses can also develop thrush when they’re kept in dirty yards/ paddocks or in wet, muddy paddocks that are contaminated.
Other causes are dirty, uncleaned feet, and lack of frog pressure due to incorrect shoeing or trimming.
The most apparent sign that a horse has thrush is usually the odour that occurs when picking out the feet and a general foul smell coming from the horse’s hooves. The infected areas of the hoof will be black in colour and will easily break or crumble when scraped with a hoof pick. When picking out the hooves around thrush areas, the differences between healthy and infected areas can be seen when white or grey tissue (healthy frog) is surrounding a dark, smelly area. There will be an increased amount of moisture and a black discharge in the grooves of the frog.
Most horses do not become lame if infected with thrush. However, if left untreated, the bacteria may migrate deeper into the sensitive parts of the hoof, which will result in lameness.
Treating thrush firstly involves improving the horse’s living conditions and the hygiene of stables, yards and paddocks.
Secondly, you need to kill and eradicate the invading bacteria. Treat thrush in horses with a germ-killing product, such as iodine or a bleach-and-water mix, diluted 50-50 (beware with Bleach that if the infection is severe and reached the sensitive tissue Bleach will be too harsh). You can soak your horse’s hooves in these products.
To get deep into the crevices of the frog where the infection will be hiding make your own cotton swab by wrapping cotton tightly around the end of a hoof pick and soak in your chosen solution. Make sure to thoroughly clean the sides of the frog and any cracks and crevices. Repeat the process daily until the issue is resolved.
Rotting frog tissue should be pared back and dead flesh removed by your farrier to allow the flesh underneath to begin repairing.
It is important to be aware that some horses are more predisposed to getting thrush than others and the best course of action for these horses is to treat them weekly as a preventative measure.