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The Best Treatments For Thrush In Horses

horse kicking up dust in its stall

Thrush is a bacterial or fungal infection that occurs in the frog of a horse’s hoof, most often caused by inactivity and damp and dirty ground conditions. However, thrush can occur even in the most active of horses who dwell in the cleanest of conditions. Learn the signs and ways to treat thrush in your horse. Fauna Care’s equine anti-fungal spray is a great way to start getting your horse back to health.

What Causes Thrush?

Keep in mind that even if your horse is regularly active and has good hoof hygiene, she can sometimes develop this unpleasant infection. Quick identification and preventative measures can ensure the condition does not cause deeper damage. Galloping across dry ground provides a natural cleaning process in which any debris in the hoof, like dirt clods, may fly out. Even regular movement at a walk or trot cleanses your horse’s hoof. Lameness or other limits on exercise can prevent your horse from exercising. You can clean your horse’s hoof with a brush, pick, and file for trimming.

horse rider exercising horse in field

If your horse has limited opportunity to exercise, they will often stand in their stall for long periods of time. Filthy conditions in their stall can lead to thrush. Horses often stand in the presence of manure or urine, and destructive organisms that thrive in such soils can infect the deep crevices of your horse’s hoof. The crevices, or sulci, are located in the frog.

Despite the best hygiene, sometimes thrush develops when stall conditions are too damp. Horses in the American West develop thrush less frequently and the ailment is often less severe. Thrush in horses is more frequent in damper parts of the United States.

wet horses
Wet geographic locations and conditions increase the likelihood a horse will develop thrush.

If thrush occurs even in the most hygienic of conditions, how can it be prevented? The answer is regular activity. If the horse’s hoof is not flexing, it cannot knock dirt and debris out. Sometimes the shape of your horse’s hoof can increase chances of developing thrush. If it has an upright heel and deeper crevices, be aware your horse should exercise regularly and use anti-fungal spray. With a higher heel the frog recesses below it, allowing more debris to accumulate. Horses with lameness, improperly trimmed heels, or Draft horses will more likely develop thrush.

How Do I Spot Thrush?


Knowing the signs of thrush ensures fast action against the disease. The frog of a hoof should touch the ground when standing in soft ground. A normal frog’s consistency is firm yet flexible, and central furrow should be shallow. Limited exercise, and other hoof health issues can cause the furrows to deepen. Deeper furrows, called sulcus, are more susceptible to thrush because the flesh has less access to air. This access is even more limited if debris becomes stuck in the crevice, and infection is likely.

The infection can be spotted by black discharge accompanied by a foul odor. Early on, the infection is superficial and sometimes hard to identify. The horse will not show any clinical signs like lameness. If the condition is not treated, it will more likely reach more sensitive, critical tissue like the digital cushion. The digital cushion separates the frog from tendons and bones and absorbs shock. If this happens, the horse will likely become lame and the frog tender, so that the horse dislikes contact with this part of its body.

Do not mistake thrush in your horse for another condition that can appear in the sulci called canker. The only known cause of canker is a lack of oxygen, but the more detailed causes are still a mystery. Canker will appear as a grey or white spongy material. The condition is rare and more often occurs in the southeastern United States. If you think your horse has canker, learn more about it here.

How Do I Prevent Thrush?

man filling horse's hooves

Keep your horse’s dwelling clean by mucking the stalls daily. All environments should have good drainage. Horses are physiologically dependant on movement and should be allowed to be outside of their stalls daily. When you pick out your horse’s hooves, pay attention to any abnormalities. The earlier thrush is suspected the better the infection can be fought with anti-fungal sprays. When trimming the frog, do so in a way that leaves clefts open for self-cleaning when the horse walks.

Often, it is the farrier who first discovers the problem while the owner is unaware. Be sure communication between the two is strong. Another possible cause of thrush is the overly aggressive use of a hoof pick. Cleaning rough enough to cause bleeding will potentially harm tissue in the hoof of your horse. Daily hoof picking is recommended, but it should be used delicately. If you think your horse is susceptible to thrush, try Fauna Care’s anti-fungal spray as a way to fight infection.

How Do I Treat Thrush?

If your horse has thrush, he should be housed in a dry area. It essential to trim the foot and inspect it daily. Treatment of thrush includes removal of affected frog structures with a hoof knife and cleansing of all cracks. Make sure the cleanser makes it into all the cracks of the hoof. Wear latex gloves and thoroughly wash hands after cleaning or inspection. If your horse’s hoof develops a bad smell or he exhibits lameness, contacting your vet will ensure nothing is infecting deeper tissue.  

Thrush is a fungal or bacterial infection of the frog of the hoof. If left untreated, it can infect deeper tissues. Prevention includes regular exercise and good hygiene. Now that you know the signs, be aware of your horse’s conditions and manage them proactively to prevent disease. A good place to start the fight against infection is Fauna Care Anti-fungal spray.

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