White Line Disease/Canker: AAEP Convention Table Topic

White line disease (hoof wall separation) and canker (chronic overgrowth of the horn-producing tissues of the foot) are hoof concerns often linked to poor hygiene. Many veterinarians and farriers think that white line disease is much more common than it used to be, and they have focused mainly on this condition.

“You don’t see it very often in hard-working horses,” said Bill Moyer, DVM, head of the Department of Large Animal Medicine and Surgery at Texas A&M University and moderator of the Table Topic discussion at the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention. “Let’s face it—today’s horse is pretty much an apartment dweller. The problem is lack of exercise and the ability to run free and clean out his own feet.”

Farriers and veterinarians discussed the efficacy of various treatments for both conditions. Several agents are commonly used to dry out hoof tissues and kill the opportunistic bacteria present in both conditions. Formaldehyde was mentioned as an option; Moyer commented that it works about as well as anything else, but can be dangerous if not properly diluted. He suggested using less dangerous agents in most cases.

Many veterinarians and farriers treat white line disease by resecting (cutting out) the separated hoof wall so that the infection can be aired out and easily treated. These often extensive resections require antiseptic topical medication (such as iodine) and packing, which is usually changed daily. One attendee mentioned success with alcohol packing following resection.

Ric Redden, DVM, owner of the International Equine Podiatry Center in Versailles, Ky., cautioned that good communication with the client is essential to the success of a resection. “It’s a big burden for a client to take care of, especially if they don’t have any previous experience with things like this,” he warned. “Ninety days is about an average turnaround for these horses, with them changing the bandages every day.”

Attendees also asked about the effectiveness of hoof supplements and isoxsuprine in a white line disease treatment regimen; Moyer said that there is no evidence of a beneficial effect of either.

For more information on white line disease and canker, please visit our White Line Disease topic page.

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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