Sport Horse
focus: Equine Podiatry
Sponsored by Richard Mansmann, VMD, PhD of
Equine Podiatry & Rehabilitation
Mobile Practice of North Carolina
Thrush (or Pododermatitis)

Certainly the most common hoof infection of the horse is thrush. It is a problem that we horse owners and professionals learn about in our very early experiences with horse management. Most commonly, it is infection of the central sulcus of the frog, but it can extend out into the frog tissue and can evolve into the heel area and also on either the medial and/or lateral sulcus of the frog. There are two ways of making a diagnosis. One way is to place a hoof pick in that central sulcus and if you can t see the end of it, then the horse more than likely has thrush. Some thrush can get 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and also elicit pain, puss or blood when the hoof pick is removed. Otherwise, it is more of a typical, foul smelling moist discharge that is noted, thus the name "thrush".

Another way to "diagnose" thrush is to stand behind the horse and examine the normal conformation of the heels where they join the central sulcus of the frog. If this is elongated vertically, like in the picture that is shown, (easily shown on the white foot), this horse has thrush. When this crevice is further probed with the hoof pick, the observations as noted above, will be seen.

To treat thrush is relatively simple, even the very difficult resistant ones, but it takes persistence. Purchase at any drug store the small cotton rounds and take that facial pad and soak it with any disinfectant like *Clorox, *Coppertox, or *Betadine and then push the disinfectant soaked pledget into the depth of the central sulcus crevice with the hoof pick. The soaked pledget has to get to the bottom of the infected depression to deliver the medication. Change daily for seven days and then wait for seven days and then retreat until the sulcus is completely closed. It is necessary to treat the thrush from the bottom of the infection. The cotton holds the disinfectant in place at the bottom of the infection. It tends to push the sides of the crevice open so that oxygen can get to the infection. The reason this infection smells is that the bacteria thrive on no oxygen, thus called anaerobic bacteria. When oxygen gets to the area along with the disinfectant the bacteria are killed.

More serious types of thrush where the infection has undermined the frog and sometimes the sole the dead tissue must be cut away to eliminate crevices and increase oxygen areas. If you have any questions about thrush you should have your horse examined by a veterinarian and talk to your farrier about the extent of the hoof damage.