Thrush in Horses: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Posted by Kat Tretina

If you spend time around a barn, you know that thrush in horses is very common.

Thrush is a bacterial infection that affects the horse's hooves, particularly around the sensitive frog, a v-shaped shock absorber that all horses have on the bottom of their feet.

Unfortunately, thrush is very common, particularly in horses who are in moist or muddy conditions.

Causes of Thrush

Clean bedding helps prevent thrush
Carolyn's Footing and Bedding

Many horses get thrush from standing in a dirty environment, like an unclean stall or a pasture full of mud and muck. Keep the stall bedding clean with fresh straw or shavings to prevent thrush from happening in the first place.

Additionally, hooves need to be cleaned and picked out regularly to ensure there is nothing lodged in the foot or rubbing against the frog. Daily grooming and feet cleaning can keep the hooves healthy and strong.

But some horses can get thrush even if kept in a spotlessly clean place. Horses with poor hoof conformation, such as long and narrow feet, are more likely to develop thrush. The different shape of the foot causes the animal to move awkwardly, allowing sand or debris to get lodged in the hoof and bacteria can enter that way.

Symptoms of Thrush in Horses

Thrush in Horses
Reinhold's Horse Wellness

Symptoms of thrush can vary, depending on the severity of the infection and on the individual horse. Common signs include:

  • Smell: Hooves infected with thrush have a foul odor, far worse than the average hoof smell.
  • Discharge: In some cases of thrush, the frog will have discharge around it, usually black or dark brown in color.
  • Coating: Some horses will have a white coating on the hooves near the frog, indicating where the infection has taken hold.
  • Lameness or sensitivity: While some horses will be very sensitive if they have thrush or may even limp, others will seem completely fine.

Treating Thrush

Horse Care

Once thrush has been identified, take measures to clean up your horse's environment. Make sure his stall is mucked out twice a day, replace any wet bedding and keep him away from marshy or muddy pastures. Pick out his feet daily to keep the infection from getting any worse.

In some cases, a veterinarian or farrier will need to come out to pare away the infected tissues. A topical treatment or disinfectant is then prescribed that you need to apply daily to allow the hoof to heal completely.

If the infection has become advanced, antibiotics may also be needed. Until thrush is eliminated, limit how often you ride, as the feet can be tender and your horse may not be as sure-footed as usual, making it dangerous for both of you.

Thrush in horses is very common, and without addressing the root cause, it will keep coming back. To treat thrush and prevent it from returning, make sure your horse's home is clean and dry and that his feet are cared for daily.

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Thrush in Horses: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment