The first line of defense against hoof disease is usually the farrier. While horse owners may want you to quickly eliminate a suspected hoof infection in one treatment (as part of the routine trimming and shoeing), it will be essential to provide sound advice in the form of a game plan.

The reality is deeply rooted infections such as white line disease and chronic thrush are nearly impossible to kill with one application of a robust topical agent. Bacteria and fungi are adept at hiding among healthy hoof tissue through millions of years of evolution.

One application of a robust chemical agent will not stop them. Unless you can get to the infection early enough, repeated use of these potent chemical agents can be counterproductive.

Caustic chemicals can be deadly to bacteria and fungi, but their continued service is usually harmful to the surrounding healthy hoof tissue and will slow the healing process.

A Game Plan that Works

Step 1. Once a hoof disease is determined, the farrier should get the horse owner to share the responsibility for the follow-up treatment.

Step 2. Removing diseased tissue and trimming the frog are essential steps to be completed by the farrier. Trimming opens the hooves to oxygen, giving them a head start to the healing process. Improperly trimmed feet prevent oxygen from getting in the crevices where hoof disease can fester.

Step 3. The horse owner should clean the feet and keep the affected areas open for oxygen by picking and brushing. The farrier should also recommend that horse owners use only commercially available topical products with a proven track record for safety and efficacy against hoof disease. Household chemicals and old home remedies recommended by the farrier do not usually carry “product liability insurance” protecting the farrier or horse owner if results go awry.

The SBS Equine researchers and others have been developing new formulas for stopping bacteria and fungi without harming sensitive surrounding tissue. The harmful organisms are like moving targets and adapt to change to avoid destruction.

The new formulas are not acidic and can be used to control infection, giving healthy hoof tissue a chance to grow and prosper. Even if you don’t kill all the harmful organisms initially, repeated and consistent use with these safe products may kill enough of them to slow the advancement of the disease to the point that it may grow out with successive trimmings.

Stain Markers Gaining Popularity

Several manufacturers are using new technology containing medical-grade stain markers. They produce “telltale” gels, which turn diseased hoof tissue a dark blue color. The stain shows when and where to add more gel as the blue color fades.

The gel products are used for fighting hoof diseases in nail holes, cracks, voids and under shoes and pads. Gels are time-release formulas that can last for days. Unlike runny liquid formulas, gels typically stay put deep in the sulcus of the frog and along the horn rim without running.

They also can be used under shoes and pads for prevention and early treatment. Feet that are not well maintained or balanced can contribute to the onset of hoof diseases, such as thrush and white line.

Learn More