How to Treat Thrush in Horses

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Treating Thrush
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Dear Cherry,

    I have read a few of your answers to e-mails and I have a question about one of our horses.  He is a stallion and he has a bad case on thrush in his feet.  It has chewed away at his frogs, so now they are completely gone.  What can we do to stop this and prevent it from happening again?  Thank you for your help.  Bryce

Dear Bryce,

     Although thrush most commonly affects the grooves on either side of the frog (collateral sulci) and in the center of the frog (central sulcus), it can invade the white line and even areas of the sole.  Here are a few facts to help you prevent and get rid of thrush:

     The bad new is, thrush bacteria are almost always present in the soil, just waiting for the opportunity to move into the warm, dark, moist environment found in the bottom of your horse's hoof.

Horse For Sale by Cherry Hill     The good new is, thrush is anaerobic, the bacteria don't survive in the presence of air.  So, the best way to avoid thrush is to keep your horse's feet clean and dry so air can reach the tissues.  But, as every horseowner knows, this is easier said than done.  Horses, especially those in confinement, often don’t have a dry place to stand, and even if they do, they often choose to stand in wet bedding, manure, or mud at least part of the time.  One of the consequences of wet footing is thrush.

     DO NOT apply bleach or hydrogen peroxide to a horse’s feet.  These so-called “treatments” will burn the healthy tissues of the frog and actually retard healing.

     Commercial thrush remedies vary in effectiveness, and ease of use, and can cost up to $12 per ounce!  Many products in squirt bottles are very messy to apply.  Some contain fungicides and bactericides (like gentian violet and copper naphthenate) which are also staining agents.  The purple or green color of the liquid lets you see without a doubt where the product is being applied but also stains everything it touches, including your clothes and hands and your horse’s hair - and it is difficult, if not impossible, to remove.  Other products smell worse than the thrush itself (which is pretty bad!).

     Sugardine is a home-made thrush remedy that’s effective, easy to use, doesn’t stain, and has no bad odor.  Plus, it only costs around $0.34/oz to make.  Sugardine has been used for years in human medicine to treat wounds and burns.  It reduces edema (swelling), nourishes surface cells and speeds healing.

     To make sugardine, mix a povidone-iodine product - such as Betadine scrub, solution, or ointment - with white table sugar to form a thin paste.  Generic povidone-iodine is often half the price of Betadine and is basically the same product.

Your Horse Barn DVD     To treat thrush, first trim loose and overgrown flaps of frog so air and medication can reached the affected tissues.  If you’re not comfortable doing this, ask your farrier or vet for help.  Wash the hoof thoroughly with mild soap, such as Betadine scrub, and plenty of warm water.  Pat the hoof dry with a cloth and apply sugardine deep into the clefts of the frog using a small brush, such as an acid brush.  An acid brush has short flat black bristles and a tubular metal handle 6" long and is available at hardware stores for about 25 cents.  The sugar will settle to the bottom of the container, so you’ll need to stir sugardine thoroughly before each use.

     Apply sugardine daily until the thrush is gone and keep the horse’s feet as clean and dry as you can to prevent reoccurrence.

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