Easy Steps to Treating Thrush in Horses

Thrush in horses need not be a disaster!

Every person involved with horses has or will be exposed to thrush. Exuding a foul smell and oily black discharge, thrush is among the most common problems experienced by horses, particularly those kept in stables. Thrush is caused by bacteria that thrive in a wet, dirty environment. Because the bacteria are anaerobic, horses confined to stalls are more likely to develop the condition than those who are kept out where they can exercise readily. The natural flex action of the horse's foot exposes the bottom to air, and horses in pastures are less likely to stand in urine or feces soaked ground. Mud in and of itself will not cause thrush, although constant wet ground may lead to an environment conducive to picking up the bacteria, which lives in soil.

Treating thrush promptly will help prevent a chronic condition that can lead to lameness, so it is very important to clean your horse's feet at least daily. Using a hoof pick properly will dislodge debris that has been picked up as well as clean out dirt and manure.

Once thrush is found, the affected hoof or hooves will need to be cleaned and treated daily for seven to fourteen days straight. Here's how:

  • Thoroughly clean the hoof, using the brush end of the hoof pick to brush out debris that has been dislodged. If the frog has flaps, trim them and any black areas back to healthy flesh. If you are nervous about doing this task yourself, ask for help from your vet or farrier.

  • Wash the foot with a preparation that contains betadine. Thoroughly dry.

  • Using a preparation specifically for thrush or a combination of half bleach, half glycerine, dip a cotton swab into the solution and thoroughly saturate the thrush-affected area. An alternative is to mix betadine with sugar and scrub it with a brush into the crevasses in the foot. An acid brush from the hardware store or an old toothbrush will work equally well.

  • Clean the horse's stall down to the floor and add fresh shavings or straw and keep it clean. Make sure the horse gets exercise, even if that means just taking him on a stroll in a halter.

  • Repeat the procedure for a week or two, until all signs of thrush are gone. If your horse tends to get thrush easily, use the bleach/glycerine preparation once a week once the thrush has cleared up.

  • The most effective way of preventing a recurrence of thrush is with proper husbandry, cleaning the horse's feet every day and keeping his bedding clean and dry.

Thrush in your horse's hooves can cause lameness.

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