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Tackling Thrush in Horses

Learn more about the common condition, hoof thrush, and about thrush treatment for horses

Tackling Thrush in Horses

Whew, do you smell that?

Once you smell thrush, it’s unlikely you will ever forget it.

Equine thrush infection is a hoof condition that many horse owners battle.  It is described as an infection localized in the “frog” of the hoof, especially the grooves on the sides and middle of the frog called the sulci. The condition is characterized by a foul odor, a dark-colored discharge, soreness of the frog and deformation of the frog’s shape.

Thrush has been positively identified as being a bacterial infection of the soft tissue of the hoof, which is caused by Fusobacterium necrophorum. This anaerobic bacteria is a natural part of a healthy horse’s gut flora.  It passes through their system and gets picked up on the hoof. While thrush is encouraged by dark, wet conditions, a case can occur in even the best of circumstances.

How do you identify thrush?

  • Tenderness and/or pain in the foot
  • Black, pus-like fluid
  • Bleeding
  • Strong, unpleasant odor
  • What causes thrush?

  • Bacteria that thrive in wet conditions, especially environments contaminated with urine or manure
  • Consistently wet conditions
  • Infrequent hoof cleaning
  • How do you treat thrush?

  • Move the horse to a clean and dry area.
  • Ensure bedding and footing is as dry as possible.
  • Pick the hooves out daily.
  • Apply an antiseptic foot wash to clean the hooves. To determine frequency of application for daily use, please reference your thrush treatment’s product label, as treatment recommendations vary by product. Gently wipe it through the hoof to get into cracks and crevices.
  • Hooflex Thrush Remedy is tough on bacteria and fungi because it is a broad-based antimicrobial. This means it will help battle the bacteria that causes thrush but also fungus that can follow. The product is “convenient to use and dried up my horse's thrush in two weeks,” said Jeannette, a horse owner in Pennsylvania. “It was recommended to me by my farrier.”
  • Contact your farrier or veterinarian if the problem persists for longer than one week.
  • How long will it take to treat thrush?

    Because of the nature of this infection, and the possibility of reinfection, it will take persistence to fully treat a case. Don’t give up after a few days -- it can take weeks. Though thrush can happen in just about any barn, it can be successfully managed when a comprehensive hoof care plan is implemented.

    To help reduce risk for thrush and support excellent hoof care for your horse, schedule regular farrier visits every six to eight weeks. Also, pick your horses’ hooves often, daily if possible. Fight back bacteria and fungus with a proven thrush treatment solution, and make sure the paddocks and bedding are as dry as possible.
    Looking to learn more about common hoof problems your horse may experience? Continue reading for details on types of horse hoof cracks, or, learn answers to common hoof care questions in this Q&A with a horse farrier.

    About the author: This content was originally provided by Absorbine/W.F. Young, manufacturer of Hooflex Thrush Remedy, with additions included from Valley Vet Supply.

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