What is Thrush?
Although thrush doesn’t usually cause lameness, it can be unpleasant to deal with and be an embarrassing smell if you are out riding with a group. Fungus thrives in a dirty barn, especially if your horse spends most of his time standing in urine soaked mud and manure. Allowing your horse to be turned out into a clean grazing pasture, keeping a clean barn, and giving your horse more exercise will go a long way to preventing this condition.
A common fungal infection of your horse’s hooves, thrush can eat away at the frog tissue leaving an unpleasant smell and black ooze on the surface.
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Symptoms of Thrush in Horses
- Your horse may react to probing around the area, indicating tenderness
- Dark or black ooze showing on the underside of the hoof
- Sever infection may eventually cause lameness
- Rotting odor from the underside of the hoof
- Very strong pungent smelling feet
- Pasty discharge from the hoof
Thrush is caused by the Spherophorus neaophorus – a fungal organism which eats away at the underside of the hoof around the frog. The thrush flourishes in confined dirty conditions, therefore, standing on a dirty wet floor speeds infection.
Causes of Thrush in Horses
- Urine soaked mud or manure can cause thrush
- Dirty stall conditions can lead to thrush in your horse’s hooves
- Often lame horses develop thrush from just standing around
- Inactivity, if your horse is boxed most of the time
- Moist conditions in the stalls can be a cause
- Overgrown or poorly trimmed hooves
- Constant hoof pad wearing
Diagnosis of Thrush in Horses
Usually the smell draws attention to this condition. Unpleasant and almost like a rot, it is very noxious and strong. If your horse’s hooves have contracted this condition, you have to kill the fungus and treat the hoof. Just pouring a product designed to kill the thrush will not work as the fungus hides in the tiny cracks in the hoof. The liquid will just glide over the top of the hoof and although it may get a few of the fungi, it will not get it all.
The veterinarian will need to examine your horse’s hooves in order for you to know the extent of the thrush condition. Some hooves can get so infected that the thrush migrates deep into the hoof that you may notice blood when you clean it out. You will need to develop a system of getting into the cracks and cleaning it all out, and then preventing it happening again. The veterinary specialist will prescribe an appropriate preparation that can be applied to the foot as directed. The prevention can be achieved by better management of your horse (increasing his exercise time and allowing free grazing time) and by better stable management. Getting rid of any manure and cleaning and disinfecting the area will help.
Treatment of Thrush in Horses
Your veterinarian, once he has prescribed the product he would like you to use to eliminate the thrush, may also recommend involving your farrier. The farrier can assist with the application of the preparation to ensure all areas are being treated.
This method of treating the infected hoof consists of getting into the areas where the infection is and cleaning it all out. Using a medication designed for thrush, use a swab wrapped pick to soak it in the solution and then take care to swab down the sides of the frog, very much like as if you were picking out the hoof. The goal is to get the swab into the cracks and really remove all the fungus. You will notice the swab turning grey and dirty looking. Keep replacing the swab and clean away until the swab comes out clean. Then give your horses hooves a scrubbing with detergent or disinfectant and warm water. Doing this daily will overcome the condition and return your horse’s hooves to normal.
The treatment can dry out the frog though, so instead of using the medicated product at full strength, the veterinarian may suggest that you weaken it with half of the product combined with half glycerine. This will look after the health of the frog. If the frog needs trimming get your farrier to come in to tidy it up which will help eliminate the conditions thrush likes so much.
Following this treatment, make sure you treat the stable or stall area to a thorough cleaning and flush the floor of the affected stall several times to ensure it is free from spores. Thrush is relatively easy to treat, but a severely damaged frog can take up to a full year before it recovers completely.
Recovery of Thrush in Horses
With time and constant daily attention to your horse’s hoof, recovery is assured. The frog may take some time to regrow to its former size if it has been damaged severely. By cleaning your horse’s hoof each day, and keeping the stall clean and as sterile as possible, the fungus risk can be eliminated. Keep in mind that moisture is a large part of the fungus environment so keeping your horse on a dry floor so that moisture and dirt do not build up within the hoof structure is vital. A lot of horses are kept in stalls these days, so it is important to allow more time for your horse to be turned out into fresh pasture. By doing so nature will keep the hoof clean and scrubbed naturally.