Thrush in Horses: Treatment and Care
Prevention of a Common Problem
Thrush is a fairly common occurrence for horses in the equine world. Especially for horses where there is a lot of moisture near the stall or in a rainy area. Chances are you need to learn how to prevent and treat thrush when your horse has sore feet.
Thrush in horses is a disease based in moisture and bacteria. The bacteria grows in the dirt and need moisture to thrive, but then gets into the the horse’s most vital body parts: the hooves. Pungent odor makes thrush distinct and cause inflammation and infection on the underside of the hoof. Often, a black discharge around the frog of the hoof makes it easy to diagnose. Ranging in severity, you may catch Thrush while it’s still in the initial stages of infection of the hoof – or it may progress to the point of lameness and or abscess. Luckily, there are ways to prevent and treat Thrush.
Southern California, you would think doesn’t have much thrush in boarding horses, yet it does and San Diego is basically a desert that meets up with the ocean. Even at the barns located more inland where the dirt is hard-packed, every winter and rainy season brought thrush. Why?
Because as a drier climate, paddocks and stalls for horses weren’t very prepared for rain drainage. The mud puddles formed in and around the stalls would begin to let the bacteria grow near the horses hooves. Then, once the rains subsided an dirty/half stinky sock kind of smell would be noticeable when cleaning out the horses feet.
In Washington State, we see a lot of more rain and endure longer seasons of down pours and moisture in the dirt. So many of the paddocks, however, are better placed for drainage. Still, in both regions of the U.S. either rainy areas or more drier areas that same ostentatious odor of thrush can be found.
What is Thrush in horses?
Thrush is a nasty, aggressive combination of fungus and non-aerobic bacteria that attacks the sensitive underside of the hoof, primarily the frog and surrounding heels, bulbs, and crevices. The root cause is essentially moisture left in the hoof for too long. It centers around the frog and heels, bulbs, and can be called white lining disease because it gets into the white lining of the hoof. Thrush comes with a pungent, black discharge that causes the frog and surrounding hoof tissue to become inflamed and infected. You’ll find that the affected hoof tissue will be easy to remove with a hoof pick, and may reveal more infection.
While it starts superficially, the infection can penetrate deeper into the hoof and the sensitive area of the frog. If it progresses to this point, it can cause a really painful, sore lameness not unlike an abscessed hoof of laminitis of the hoof.
How to Prevent Thrush
Since thrush is caused by moisture left sitting too long in the horse’s hoof, the first step is to walk the horse to a drier area and create a dry environment for your horse to stand in.
While some horse paddocks are harder than others, you can provide a shelter and raised area in the outdoor paddock where the horse can stand outside of mud or accumulated manure, or have a drainage system for barn indoor stalls. Either way, cleaning your horse’s manure regularly out of their normal standing place will go a long way in preventing thrush. Also, normal exercise for your horse will increase the circulation in the horse’s hooves that brings oxygen to the infect wall lining of the hoof and frog to prevent thrush.
After prioritizing a clean, dry stall, the next step to prevent equine thrush is to clean your horse’s hooves on a regular basis. Cleaning your horse’s hooves every time you walk or ride is a given. As this walking and riding motion will allow the horse’s hoof to expand and contract, pushing out dirt and debris from the hoof will also increase circulation in the hoof. This can help dry out the hoof and prevent thrush from embedding into the frog of the hoof. Also, making it a point to pick their hooves even if you don’t ride regularly.
Moisture trapped in the hoof through mud after it rains, manure that builds up near the horse, or standing water under a hoof pad can all create an ideal environment for thrush to grow.
The last step in preventing thrush is scheduling regular farrier trimmings. Horses with misshapen hooves or unhealthy frogs will be extremely prone to thrush, no matter how much you control their habitation.
How to Treat Thrush in Horses
Thrush can be nasty, but it is pretty simple to treat if you catch it early enough. There are three basic steps to treating thrush.
- Step One: Clean out the infected tissue from around the frog. It may go deep, so make sure to be gently on your horse’s hoof. Clean out all the discharge that comes along with it as well.
- Step Two: You’ll need to apply a thrush specific topical treatment to help eliminate excess moisture and kill the infection. My absolute favorite treatment is Thrush Stuff. I’ve used it for every horse that has thrush, and it has always been effective in treating horse’s hooves.
Thrush Stuff – It has proven to be extremely effective, while also more gentle than alternatives, including bleach, copper sulfate, and turpentine. These dry out the hoof and can cause cracking of the hoof. It’s antiseptic is preventing the infected tissue from spreading into the healthy tissue, while also fighting the infection itself.
As a remedy, apply Thrush Stuff by holding your horse’s clean hoof with one hand, and dripping several drops of the purple liquid right into the infected area. Let it pool a little at first, and continue holding the hoof in picking position until it soaks into the hoof and begins to dry. You will notice that the less-affected areas will be a little purple, while the infected areas will be darker.
- Step Three: Make sure your horse’s hoof gets time to dry. Don’t treat the thrush and put your horse right back into a muddy stall. Find a good place to rest or ride where he won’t be stepping back into puddles, deep manure, or mud. Keep repeating this process until the infection ceases.
Caring for the Horse’s Hooves
If you think that your horse is more prone to thrush, either from past experience or an excessively moist environment, you can use Thrush Stuff up to once per week in wet environments and once every two weeks in dry environments, to balance the hoof’s moisture levels and kill and infection that might be accumulating.
Call your vet if the infection persists, if you have any questions about treatment, or if the infected area is really large. If the thrush seems to be causing lameness or other sensitivity in your horse’s hooves, it could be too advanced for at-home care or, possibly, another issue entirely.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve added a few FAQs to continue your education about thrush.
Why does my horse keep getting thrush?
Preventing thrush is important. First, make sure to provide your horse with regular exercise – this helps maintain a healthy frog. Second, schedule regular farrier visits to keep up-to-date on hoof care. Regular trims will help keep the frog healthy and prevent thrush. Third, ensure the horse’s environment is clean and dry.
If you do all these things and your horse still gets thrush, the horse may be prone to it. In this case, treating the hoof with Thrush Stuff several time a week can help prevent future recurrences.
How do you treat thrush in horses?
To treat thrush in horses, you first need to remove the infected tissue in a safe, clean environment. Consult an equine professional such as a vet or a farrier, as it could be painful for the horse depending on how much tissue if affected.
Next, apply a thrush specific topical treatment. This should be done daily. It may be necessary to trim the hoof to ensure the frog can regrow properly. Some people bandage the hoof in more severe cases. If the infection was mild, air exposure can help expedite the healing process.
What is the best thrush treatment for horses?
Thrush can be treated by cutting back dead tissue and then treating the area with a solution of thrush specific topical treatment like Thrush Stuff.
Thrush Stuff product is designed to treat thrush in horses; a few important facts, in particular, the pointed top applicator helps deliver the solution in smaller cracks around the frog. You will need to apply the solution and then continue to hold the hoof up to give the solution time to soak in for full effectiveness.
How do you cure thrush fast?
Prevention is key in caring for horse’s feet. Monitor your horse’s hoof care and schedule regular visits with your farrier.
Check your horse’s hooves regularly. If you see signs of thrush, treat immediately.
Aren’t quite sure if it is thrush? Generally, applying a product such as Thrush Stuff won’t hurt a healthy hoof. Always consult your veterinarian if you have questions. For a serious case, treat by removing dead tissue, and apply with a thrush specific topical treatment of Thrush Stuff.
Keep the horse in a clean, dry area and the thrush should clear up within 7-14 days.
How can I harden my horses’ hooves naturally?
Hoof care is an important part of overall equine health. First, ensure your horse is receiving regular trims by your farrier. Second, check your horse’s diet – good hoof quality originates from a good diet. Third, check your horse’s environment. If it is too dry, hooves may crack or split; too wet and the hoof will be too soft.