Hoof Nutrition Intelligence Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.

Below you will find Part 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.

Q: Is copper sulfate a good treatment for thrush?

From American Farriers Journal

A: A traditional homemade thrush remedy has been a mixture of copper sulfate and water to form a paste, packing the compound into the infected area of the hoof. The solution, according to farriers who utilize the compound, has worked and provided a cost-effective treatment to the thrush cases they see regularly.

Conversely, other professionals deem the practice unsafe for both horse and farrier, and also cite environmental concerns.

Outside of the farrier industry, copper sulfate is primarily used as a fungicide to control bacterial and fungal growth in bodies of water. The Environmental Protection Agency has established a maximum allowable limit of 1 part per million or less in drinking water. Although toxicity typically occurs at higher concentrations, the agency has deemed 1 ppm as the necessary limitation in the prevention of maintaining both the “acceptable taste” and safety of drinking water.

A powerful oxidizing agent, the human body naturally contains 50-120 mg of copper and is an essential element required to support proper health. However, when exposure occurs in larger quantities, either through absorption or ingestion, health will be impaired.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC), copper sulfate is rapidly absorbed into the body and, correspondingly, the bloodstream once eaten or inhaled. The compound subsequently binds to proteins and enters different organs. And while the excess copper is mostly excreted from the body, deposits can be found in the liver, stomach secretions, bone, brain, hair, heart, intestine, kidneys, muscle, skin and spleen. The center’s compilation of research finds it takes 13 to 33 days for only half of a large copper dose to be eliminated from the body.

Critics of copper sulfate recommend that farriers instead use products that are not chemically caustic to the proteins of the hoof wall or sole. This is because even though caustic chemicals and materials might destroy the organisms on the surface, they also denature the proteins of the hoof capsule and block the penetration of oxygen. When a caustic solution is used, a farrier is essentially feeding the invasion of anaerobic hoof-eating microbes.

While there is no ban on the use of copper sulfate in the farrier industry, a professional and educated approach should be used.

From "Copper Sulfate Use by Farriers Raises Safety Concerns,” an article that appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of American Farriers Journal.

Click here to read part 2 of the Jan. 15, 2020 installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: Is there any relationship between a horse with poor quality feet and its body condition? Click here to read more installments of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence.