Thrush In Horses – Interesting Facts About Causes, Symptoms And The Right Treatment!
Healthy hooves are important for the overall health of your horse. The hooves have a tough job to do: They must bear the horse’s enormous weight and absorb shock with every step and every jump, protecting the horse’s joints. While the hoof is loaded, the so-called hoof mechanism with movements in and on the hoof ensures that the hooves and legs are well supplied with blood. The blood is better transported into the veins up from the hoof. One even speaks of the hooves as the four additional hearts of the horse.
If the horse’s hooves are affected by thrush, the hoof mechanism no longer functions properly. In advanced cases, lameness can result. What you as a rider and horse owner should know about thrush, you will learn in our guide.
Thrush: Brief overview
-> Everything you need to know about thrush in horses explained in 30 seconds:
Thrush is a disease of the horse’s hoof caused by bacteria. Putrefactive agents penetrate the frog horn of the hoof and decompose the horn.
The disease is particularly caused by poor soil hygiene, inadequate hoof care, hoof malposition, poor horn quality and lack of exercise.
Hoof furrows become deeper and narrower. The hoof begins to turn into a dark and greasy mass and you notice a typical foul odor. Cavities and fissures may form.
Treatment with antibacterial agents, improvement of ground hygiene and hoof care, trimming of hooves by the farrier, regular exercise.
Prognosis: If thrush is detected early and treated consistently, the prognosis is good.
What is thrush?
Thrush is a bacterial disease of the hoof. You can easily see the hoof on the underside of the horse’s hoof. It pushes into the sole of the hoof from behind like a wedge. You can see two lateral hoof furrows and one middle hoof furrow. When your horse has thrush, decay pathogens enter the frog horn of the hoof and decompose the horn. The main pathogen of the disease is the so-called Fusobacterium necrophorum. Fusobacteria need warm and humid conditions to live and only multiply when oxygen is not present. They eat away at the soft frog horn of the hoof, causing cavities and fissures in the horn.
Thrush, also called hoof rot, is a process in which the middle frog furrow is decomposed first. As the disease progresses, the lateral furrows and later even the solid horn of the sole and wall of the hoof are also affected. The frog horn is in danger of rotting completely as the bacteria decompose the horn faster than it can regrow.
BTW: The same bacterium also causes thrush in sheep.
How does horse thrush develop?
The causes of thrush are mainly due to deficiencies in the horse’s husbandry. However, thrush can also develop for other reasons independent of hygiene.
The most common causes of thrush in horses are as follows:
Poor soil hygiene:
If your horse is standing on un-mucked out or wet ground, this moist and possibly warm substrate of urine and feces creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. The moisture softens the horn and the ammonia present in the urine pre-damages the hooves. In this way, the bacteria can easily penetrate. Since the fusobacteria that cause thrush are found in the horse’s feces, they are present wherever horses live. If mucking out is not done regularly, the likelihood of the horse’s hooves being affected by the rot bacteria increases. If certain hoof sections are closed off from the air supply and thus from oxygen, the fusobacteria that cause thrush can multiply perfectly.
Inadequate hoof care:
Unscraped hooves also ensure that thrush can develop. If you don’t clean the hooves thoroughly with a hoof scraper at least once a day, areas can quickly develop in the crevices and cracks of the hoof that receive no air and therefore no oxygen. This is where the anaerobic bacteria of thrush can spread.
Lack of action by the farrier:
If the farrier doesn’t trim your horse’s hooves properly with a hoof knife on a regular basis, you run the risk of areas forming in the hoof that are cut off from the air supply. This creates a good breeding ground for bacteria.
Incorrect shoeing or incorrect treatment:
If the shoe puts too much pressure on the frog, thrush will develop more quickly. If the shoe covers the hoof completely or partially, as in the case of standing horseshoes or soles, oxygen does not reach the frog and the rot bacteria have an easy time.
Poor horn quality:
Disturbances in keratinization contribute to the faster development of thrush. Such disturbances can occur as a result of zinc deficiency, for example.
Lack of exercise:
Too little exercise will also cause your horse to develop thrush more easily. If you rarely move it, the hoof mechanism does not get going enough. The tissue is not supplied with enough blood and the production of high-quality hoof horn is reduced. As a result, the frog is not resistant and accordingly susceptible to thrush.
Malpositioning of the hoof:
When the hoof is malpositioned, the hoof is deformed. In the case of a forced hoof, for example, the rear part of the hoof is too narrow, so that a pocket forms in the middle frog furrow. This is a good place for decay bacteria to multiply.
How do I recognize rot?
Thrush is easy to recognize. When scraping the hooves, you will notice that the furrows are deeper and narrower than usual. You will notice a typical foul odor that develops as the bacteria decompose the frog horn. Cavities and crevices form in the frog and the horn decomposes into a dark greasy mass. Detached horn can also be a sign of thrush.
Initially, your horse does not suffer from the condition. If the thrush persists for a longer period of time and the sensitive hoof corium is exposed, your horse will show pain and start to lame – especially on soft ground, because the frog is exposed to higher pressure here than on hard ground.
If your horse has been suffering from thrush for a long period of time, typical rings will be visible on the horn wall. These rings indicate how long your horse’s frog has been affected by decay bacteria.
Symptoms of thrush at a glance
Frog furrows become deeper and narrower.
Typical foul odor develops.
Frog turns into dark greasy mass.
Cavities and cracks form.
Horn begins to peel off.
Horse begins to lame if disease persists for a long time.
Rings form on the horn wall with prolonged disease.
As soon as you suspect that your horse may have thrush, you can do a quick test with a cotton swab. To do this, press the swab into a suspicious furrow. If the cotton soaks up a dark liquid, your horse is suffering from thrush.
How to treat the horse’s thrush?
The first thing to do is to remedy existing deficiencies in the horse’s attitude. The horse should no longer stand in dung or wet mud for a longer period of time, so that the pathogen is no longer provided with a suitable habitat.
Before you start to treat the affected areas with medication, you must clean the hoof from dirt and rotten horn tissue. It is best to let the farrier do this. He knows exactly which areas of the hoof to cut out now. It is especially important that oxygen gets back to the frog horn. If you are interested in hoof care in general, you can find more information in our guide “Bare Hoof Care & Hoof Care – Helpful Tips for You and Your Horse!”.
Basically, the following measures are to be carried out if you want to treat your horse effectively against thrush:
Make sure the ground is dry!
Clean the hooves thoroughly on a regular basis!
Have the rotten and loose horn removed by the farrier!
Treat severely affected areas with antibacterial agents recommended by the veterinarian!
Have your horse specially shod in case of hoof malpositions determined by the veterinarian or farrier!
Move your horse!
After cleaning and trimming the hooves, disinfect the sole and frog with its furrows. If the process is advanced, soak small cotton balls or gauze pads with disinfectant and press them into the frog furrows to ensure that the decay gaps are adequately treated. Also, by tamponading, you will prevent the hooves from becoming dirty again and you will encourage horn growth. The hooves must be checked regularly during the next few days and cut out again if necessary. Renew the tamponade until the hoof is dry.
What remedies can you use to treat thrush in horses?
Iodoform ether against thrush:
Iodoform ether is prescribed by your veterinarian with a prescription specifically for your horse’s thrush. You can have the iodoform ether made at a pharmacy on prescription from your veterinarian. With the prescription, the veterinarian confirms that there is a therapeutic emergency according to § 56 a para. 2 of the German Medicines Act (AMG) for the clinical picture. This means that there is no suitable finished drug available and that there is a serious threat to the health of your horse. Treatment with iodoform ether should be well discussed with your veterinarian. It disinfects very well, but it dries out the frog so it can become susceptible to cracking and bacterial invasion again.
Hydrogen peroxide for thrush:
Hydrogen peroxide kills anaerobic fusobacteria, making it effective against thrush. Since it dries out the hoof considerably, you should talk to your veterinarian about whether you should use it or rather switch to another remedy.
Blue spray against thrush:-
There are different types of blue sprays. The ingredients are very different. All have in common a blue dye, by which the user recognizes the sprayed areas. Many blue sprays contain alcohols for disinfection. However, they are only approved for surface disinfection. Other blue sprays contain antibiotics. For example, there is CTC (chlortetracycline) blue spray, which is only approved for treating claw disease in cattle, sheep and goats. So you have to discuss the treatment with blue spray with your veterinarian in any case.
Betaisodona® against thrush:
Betaisodona® is a trade name for povidone-iodine, which is used as a disinfectant or antiseptic. For thrush, Betaisodona® ointment disinfects the thrush well and, because of its consistency, sticks well to the thrush. However, it also does not allow oxygen to reach the affected area, so it is better if you use a Betaisodona® solution. The iodine solution lets the oxygen through, which prevents the rot bacteria from multiplying.
Copper sulfate for thrush:
Copper sulfate has antibacterial and drying properties. It therefore works well against thrush.
Potassium permanganate against thrush:
You can also use potassium permanganate solution as a disinfectant against thrush. Potassium permanganate also has a drying effect.
Colloidal silver has antimicrobial activity, so you can also use it against the putrefactive bacteria and apply it to the areas of the frog affected by thrush.
Feed supplements such as biotin or a balancing feed for zinc deficiency will help control thrush.
If thrush is advanced, do not use iodoform ether, copper sulfate or potassium permanganate. They have a strong drying effect and can irritate the corium.
Do not use products such as hoof tar or hoof oils at this time. They exclude oxygen, which provides the best living conditions for pathogenic bacteria.
In order to get your horse’s hooves healthy as quickly as possible, you must clean them at least once a day and make sure that your horse stands dry. Suitable nutrient medium must not be available to the fuso bacteria.
Are there effective home remedies against horse thrush?
If thrush is not yet severe, mild acting remedies such as home remedies can help. Home remedies have the advantage that they usually have no side effects. In addition, they are often already available in the stable or house or they are easy to obtain.
Home remedies you can use for a mild form of thrush include:
Vinegar neutralizes ammonia, which is harmful to the horn and is produced when urine and feces break down. Vinegar also protects against bacteria and strengthens horn walls.
Toothpaste ingredients such as triclosan and zinc salts have an antibacterial effect.
Tea tree oil:
You can also use tea tree oil for its antibacterial effects against thrush.
Honey and onions:
Some horse owners treat thrush with honey with onions. They swear by their antibacterial properties.
Not only is choosing the right remedy critical, but it’s at least as important that you prepare the hoof thoroughly and apply therapeutic remedies consistently.
Be aware that all painstaking attempts to effectively treat thrush will fail if promoting factors such as poor stable hygiene persist.
How can I prevent thrush?
The good news about thrush is that you can prevent it in the best possible way. With optimal stable hygiene and conscientious hoof care, you can usually keep this disease away from your horse. If your horse does not stand on dirty and wet ground for a long time, the soft and sensitive frog will remain healthy. Bacteria will not penetrate the frog. If you also exercise your horse regularly and feed him a balanced diet, you will also help to keep his hooves healthy.
The following points should be observed in order to best prevent thrush:
- Remove damp bedding
- Keep paddocks free of mud
- Clean the pasture and paddock
- Frequent scraping of the hooves
- Regular trimming of the hooves by the farrier
- Balanced diet with sufficient biotin and zinc
- Sufficient exercise
- Regular control
What is the prognosis for thrush?
The prognosis is good. If you recognize thrush in time and treat it immediately and consistently, the disease is usually mild. Especially if there is no inflammation of the dermis, you can assume that the disease will heal without consequences. In order to prevent a recurrence of the disease, you must pay constant attention to proper stable hygiene, regular hoof care, sufficient exercise and proper nutrition.
Other frequently asked questions about thrush in horses
In connection with thrush, owners of affected horses ask many more questions. We have compiled the most common ones here:
Is thrush dangerous?
In advanced cases, thrush can become dangerous for your horse if the hoof corium becomes irritated and inflamed. The hoof corium is supplied with many nerves and vessels and is therefore very sensitive. If thrush is not detected and treated in time, your horse will have pain when it touches the ground. It starts to lame. If you consistently follow the therapeutic measures, the chances of recovery are very good.
Can my horse be lame if he has thrush?
Once the rotting process of thrush progresses and reaches the corium, the horse may feel pain when it is stepped on. It will start to lame.
Is thrush contagious?
Thrush in itself is not contagious. A horse suffering from thrush does not pose a risk of infection to other horses. However, if the horse is kept in poor conditions, it can be assumed that other horses in the stable will also be affected by the disease.
How long do I have to treat thrush?
You should disinfect and tamponade until the frog horn appears dry. Thrush needs to be treated longer the more advanced the rotting process is. Depending on the severity of the condition, thrush will heal within 2 to 10 weeks.
What can I feed for thrush?
An imbalanced nutrient balance contributes to a decrease in horn quality and growth. Thrush can now develop more quickly. For example, zinc or biotin deficiencies negatively impact the production of high-quality hoof horn. Owners of affected horses are happy to feed biotin, which has been shown to improve the quality of regrowing horn. However, biotin must be fed for at least six months to be effective. If necessary, you can supplement feed specifically after blood work has been done.
What does thrush smell like?
When scraping the hooves, you will notice the typical smell. The horn decomposed by the decay bacteria smells penetratingly putrid.
Conclusion on thrush
The diagnosis of thrush in your horse does not have to shock you. You can recognize it very well even at a less pronounced stage, so you can start fighting it early. Thrush is easily treatable. If you follow the therapeutic measures consistently, your horse will not develop pain and lameness.
By simple means, you can ensure that your horse does not develop thrush in the first place. By addressing the primary causes of the disease, such as excessive moisture, poor stall hygiene and lack of hoof care, you can maintain your horse’s hoof health.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
I take great pride in being the best possible author and giving you the knowledge that i have on all different types of animals!
I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
The website will draw have authors who are vets, pet owners, and local pet breeders. All who will contribute their fantastic knowledge which in turn will be able to help you i hope.
There is a lot of information on the internet so it may be hard to know where exactly is the best place to start learning. But we will write articles that get straight to the point, and give you all the information that you need with no fluff!
If you have any questions please leave a comment on the article, and i will reply to you!