Identifying and Treating Thrush
Thrush is an infection of the hoof that affects the frog and sulci (the grooves beside and in the middle of the frog.) The bacterium Fusobacterium necrophorum is usually the culprit behind an outbreak.
When you think of a horse with thrush, you probably envision an unclean environment, like a muddy paddock with lots of manure. However, thrush can occur due to a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the cleanliness of the horse’s immediate area. Factors such as bad trimming or shoeing or a lack of either can cause thrush to develop. Poor diet or insufficient exercise can also contribute. Horses with bad circulation are prone to thrush outbreaks as well.
Diagnosing thrush is rather straightforward. You only have to see the black, putty-like substance it produces and smell its foul odor once for it to make an impression on you. These two classic symptoms make thrush easily recognizable.
Thrush outbreaks can range from mild to severe. Many horses get it and remain sound. Others may become lame, which sometimes occurs if the bacteria invade the sensitive layers in the foot.
Treatment of thrush involves regular cleaning and medicating of the infected hoof. Milder cases require daily cleaning and picking of the hoof along with an application of a medicated thrush remedy. There are scores of these available on the market.
For more involved cases, you may need the assistance of your farrier for trimming away the dead, infected tissue. Again, clean and pick the affected hoof daily. Do this in a clean spot in your barn. After you’ve picked out the hoof, use a scrub brush and water to clean the hoof. Let it air dry for ten minutes or so, then apply the thrush medication. A popular homemade remedy is “sugardine,” which is a mixture of sugar and Betadine scrub (generically known as povidone iodine.) If the thrush is severe, you may want to pack the hoof with gauze soaked in the thrush medication.
The best way to prevent thrush is to pay attention to your horse’s feet. Pick them out daily and treat them immediately at the earliest signs. Work with your farrier and vet to make sure your horse’s hooves are as healthy as can be.