What You Need to Know About Hoof Fungus

Posted on
June 24, 2020

Because horse hooves are warm, filled with crevices, and often wet, they make a perfect environment for fungus. Luckily, horse hoof fungus is easy to identify and treat. In this post we’ll cover everything you need to know to identify and treat different types of horse hoof fungus, including:

  • Thrush
  • White Line Disease
  • Deep Central Sulcus
A man picks out a horse's hoof, keeping it clean and free of fungus.
Regular maintenance is key for keeping your horse’s hooves healthy. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Thrush

How to Identify Thrush

Thrush is a common and easily identifiable bacterial hoof infection. The fungus that most commonly causes thrush is spherophorus necrophorus. This fungus creates a black slime on and around the frog, eventually spreading to the sole as well.  

To identify thrush look for the black slime as well as the appearance of black veins on the sole. The hoof will also have a cheesy smell.

The fungus causes thinning in the sole by breaking down sole tissue. This increases the likelihood of sole bruising and abscessing, along with other hoof infections. In severe cases, thrush causes lameness. 

How to Treat Thrush

  1. Keep your horse in a dry area.
  2. Remove infected tissue from the frog with a hoof knife and clean all cracks and crevices. Be sure to wear gloves during cleaning and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  3. Monitor for foul odor or lameness that may indicate deeper infection. 
  4. Keep the hooves clean and fight infection with anti-fungal spray.  
A horse stands with hooves on wet ground, which can make fungal infections more likely.
Often standing in wet or muddy areas increases the likelihood of hoof fungus. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

White Line Disease

How to Identify White Line Disease

The white line is the light colored barrier between the outer wall and the sole. White line disease is a fungal hoof infection that causes separation between the outer wall of the hoof and the middle layer of hoof tissue. 

White line disease can be identified with the appearance of crumbly or powdery gray or black tissue around the white line. When the damaged tissue is scraped away it will reveal separation between layers of the hoof. The hoof will sound hollow when tapped above a separation. You may also notice sunken or bulging areas on the hoof.

Although the horse will not be lame at this stage of the infection, severe cases do result in lameness. Untreated white line disease causes rotation of the coffin bone because of long term damage to the support structures of the hoof.

How to Treat White Line Disease

  1. Consult your veterinarian and farrier.
  2. Remove all infected tissue by scraping with a hoof knife until healthy tissue is uncovered.
  3. Apply an antibacterial or anti-fungal product. Fauna Care has options for both.
  4. Prevent further infection by keeping the hoof exposed to air and limiting moisture.
  5. Protect the hoof during the long process of regrowing the horn. Shoeing the hoof helps by taking pressure off of the toe. 
A person rides a healthy horse through a field.
Proper fungus treatment will have your horse back to healthy in no time.

Deep Central Sulcus Infection

How to Identify Deep Central Sulcus Infection

Deep central sulcus infection occurs when fungus or bacterial eats away at and seriously compromises the frog, resulting in a serious condition. This fungal infection is trickier to identify since it lives inside the frog.

Deep central sulcus infections are more common in contracted hooves and will generally present first with a crack between the heel bulbs. However, a frog that looks healthy from the outside can also be home to this type of fungal infection.

You can begin to examine a hoof for deep central sulcus infection if you find a deep crevice with your hoof pick. The hoof will give off heat in the heel bulbs and the frog. Deep central sulcus infections usually appear on x rays as well.

Deep central sulcus infections are also very painful--if your horse is avoiding pressure on its heels or not wanting you to touch or pick out its hooves it could be exhibiting symptoms of this infection. 

How to Treat Deep Central Sulcus Infection

Deep Central Sulcus Infection is essentially a deeper and more severe case of thrush, and therefore should be treated in a similar way. 

  1. Keep your horse in a dry area.
  2. Remove infected tissue from the frog with a hoof knife and clean all cracks and crevices. Since deep central sulcus infection is deep in the hoof, you may want your farrier or veterinarian to be the one who removes the infected tissue and thoroughly cleans the hoof. 
  3. Monitor for foul odor or lameness that may indicate deeper infection. 
  4. Keep the hooves clean and fight infection with anti-fungal spray.  
A person holds a clean, healthy hoof.
A clean dry hoof is far less likely to house fungus.

Preventing Hoof Fungus

Regular Hoof Care

Taking care of your horse’s hooves is the key to preventing all types of hoof fungus. Proper hoof care requires:

  • Picking hooves - Picking hooves frequently not only keeps the hooves clean but allows you to monitor the hooves. Look for things stuck in the hoof, bruising, and check on the condition of the sulcus and frog. You should pick your horse’s hooves every day. Picking every day will keep mud, snow, and everything else from packing in the hooves and creating an environment welcoming to fungus and bacteria.
  • Trimming hooves - How often a horse needs its hooves trimmed varies depending on what it does, where it spends time, and the specific condition of its hooves. Follow the general rule of every six weeks until you figure out what your horse needs.
A farrier trims a horse's hoof.
With regular hoof picking and trimming you can prevent instances of hoof fungus. 

Fungal infections can be painful, cause damage, and slow your horse down but fortunately they are preventable and treatable. Keep your horse clean, dry, and make sure they get plenty of exercise to avoid occurrences of fungal infections. When fungal infections do arise, use this guide to identify and treat horse hoof fungus and get your horse back to healthy quickly. 


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Posted on
June 24, 2020
in
Advice
category