Thrush in horses is an infection of the frog - the v-shaped area in the middle of the hoof. While it’s most commonly found in wet conditions or in horses who get limited exercise, thrush can occur at other times too.
Thrush is generally a mild condition, but if left untreated, it can lead to more serious problems. So, it’s important to identify it early.
Causes of thrush in horses
Thrush is caused when bacteria gets into the frog, leading to swelling, heat and soreness in the surrounding tissue. This can happen for a number of reasons, including lack of exercise and prolonged exposure to wet and muddy conditions.
Some horses are simply more susceptible to thrush than others, especially those with an upright heel and deep crevices in the frog, which retain moisture and allow bacteria to thrive. Thrush is particularly common in horses with a recessed frog – that is, one that is lower than the surface area of the rest of the hoof.
Symptoms of thrush
During the early stages of infection, it may be hard to detect thrush in horses, but once it progresses, it becomes very apparent. Symptoms include:
- Soreness in and around the centre of the hoof
- Pasty discharge from the central crevice of the hoof
- Unpleasant odour.
Severe cases of thrush can sometimes be mistaken for canker, which is another condition that gives the frog a spongy, cauliflower like appearance and makes it prone to bleeding.
Often, the symptoms of thrush are so mild the owner doesn’t notice until they take their horse to the farrier. Regularly checking and picking out each hoof is important, so you can detect the early signs of thrush or any other health issues.
Best way to get rid of thrush in horse hooves
If you think your horse may have thrush, it’s best to have them seen by a farrier as soon as possible. The farrier will trim away the diseased tissue and may apply a diluted bleach solution to get rid of the infection. Your farrier will also deal with any hoof-capsule abnormalities by trimming your horse’s hooves, so the frog is level with the rest of the foot. This will increase blood flow to the frog, by allowing it to be stimulated by contact with the ground.
You may need to regularly apply a mild iodine solution or dedicated anti-thrush product until the infection clears up. Take care to only use a mild iodine solution – nothing stronger than 2%.
As well as treating the source of the disease, you can help your horse recover faster by moving them to a clean and dry environment. If your horse is stabled, consider changing from straw bedding to sawdust, which will help keep their feet drier. With the right treatment and environment, you can expect your horse to recover in seven to 14 days.
With thrush, prevention is better than cure. You can protect your horse against thrush by doing the following:
- Get your horse’s feet trimmed on a regular basis to maintain a healthy frog.
- Keep outdoor areas well drained and as dry as possible.
- Ensure your horse’s bedding is regularly changed and stalls mucked out daily.
- Allow your horse to exercise regularly to stimulate blood flow to the frog.
- Clean out your horse’s feet daily with a hoof pick.
In most cases thrush is relatively minor, and your horse will make a full recovery. By staying vigilant and taking regular care of your horse’s hooves, you can increase the chance they will stay happy, healthy and thrush-free!