Thrush Prevention

Q: I own a 13-year-old Paint gelding and live in Central Pennsylvania where we have been getting a lot of rain and flash floods lately. My horse is out in the pasture year round, but he has a run-in for shelter. When I picked his feet today, I noticed that his frog was soft and the part towards the heel was white like the stomach of a dead frog.

He is my first horse and he hasn't had had any feet problems in the two years I've owned him, except for losing shoes. How do I treat this and how can I keep his feet dry? He is currently wearing shoes and bell boots on his front feet. Any help would be appreciated.

Amelia Palmer, Pennsylvania

A: Due to the severe weather this year and lots of rain your horse could be suffering from thrush in the frog, which is a bacterial infection of those tissues--especially over the central sulcus, or cleft. You will notice black malodorous exudates over the area. Thrush is caused by Gram-negative anaerobic (not requiring oxygen to grow) bacteria, and it is often benign, but sometimes the bacteria can invade sensitive tissue, causing prolonged infection and lameness.

Daily cleaning of the dirt/debris/mud that could be trapping moisture and allowing the opportunistic bacteria to take over-creating an infection--to help not only treat but also prevent thrush. Also provide a clean environment (stall) to help your horse's feet stay dry.

Since the bacteria involved are anaerobic, it is important to open and allow oxygen to get into the affected area. Over-the-counter products are available to treat thrush, and foot soaks can also help your horse fight the bacteria. I personally like to use a hoof care product called Kevin Bacon if the thrush is only in the early stages, but if sensitive tissue is exposed I used a diluted povidone-iodine (Betadine) product such as Xenodine.

If your horse becomes lame after prolonged infection I recommend calling your veterinarian time to provide further evaluation. If the horse lives outside all the time without an available stall, you can manage the case with foot wraps or commercial boots to keep his feet clean and dry.

About the Author

Raul Bras, DVM, CJF

Raul Bras, DVM, CJF, is a podiatrist and shareholder at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where he sees a variety of foot and lameness-related cases. He graduated from Cornell University's farrier school in 2007 and became a certified farrier in 2009 and a certified journeyman farrier in 2010.

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