thrush in the horse

There is hardly any other hoof problem that is as widespread and underestimated in the horse world as thrush. For many horse people, thrush is so normal that they dismiss it as a natural evil that you just have to live with. So where exactly is the problem?

That's why thrush is problematic

Thrush is anything but normal: the hoof is infested with horn-decomposing bacteria, which triggers a vicious cycle. Because the bacteria eat away at the jet horn, which means that the jet becomes less and less over time. However, the frog has the important task of acting as a cushion in the rear area of ​​the hoof. On the one hand, it has a cushioning function and, on the other hand, it ensures that the ball of the hoof is pushed apart when the foot strikes. This is particularly important for the hoof mechanism

Strahlfäule beim Pferdehuf

If the hoof frog can no longer fulfill this task, the hoof becomes narrower and narrower in the rear area - a constrained hoof develops. This further constrains the (already atrophied) frog, reduces blood flow in the hoof and limits the frog's growth. In addition, the collateral furrows become very narrow, which is why more dirt gets stuck in them and the bacterial environment is favoured. So the situation is getting worse.

In the case of advanced thrush, the bacteria can finally eat their way through to the sensitive dermis - at the latest then every touch in this area causes pain. As a horse owner, you notice this when your horse jerks painfully when scratching out the collateral groove.

Many horses then also change their gait because they don't want to put pressure on the painful area when touching down. Instead of a healthy heeled foot, many then show toe landing or lameness, especially on soft ground (because the hoof sinks in here and more pressure is put on the painful frog).

When the bacteria have finally eaten their way up to the dermis, the situation can finally get drastically worse: in some cases, the irritated dermis starts to produce proliferation of emergency horn - the hoof canker is there.

But it doesn't have to come to that! In order to be able to combat thrush effectively (or to prevent it from occurring in the first place), it is important to take a closer look at the causes.

Causes of thrush

Thrush is primarily due to the bacterium “Fusobacterium necrophorum”. This is an anaerobic bacterium (meaning it lives in oxygen-poor conditions) that is part of the normal flora of many mammals (it can be found in our human oral cavity and the digestive tract of various pets, among others). For example, if these bacteria For example, if they get to the hoof via the horse manure and are stuck there in the absence of air, they feel very comfortable and eat away at the softest horn they can find: the radiant horn.

Strahlfäule am Huf

Then why don't all horses have thrush? After all, sooner or later every horse climbs into a dung heap, even in the cleanest stable.

The answer is simple: a healthy hoof is resilient and self-cleaning. If the horse is moving and the frog is healthy, the dirt will quickly fly out of the hoof on its own. In addition, a healthy ray is relatively hard and is therefore not easily eaten away.

However, the situation is different if the hoof is already in a constrained situation, is severely neglected or the frog is no longer completely healthy. In such conditions, the hoof is more susceptible to infections of all kinds, and manure is more tenacious in the collateral grooves.This is also the case if the horse is permanently standing on soil soaked in faeces or cannot move sufficiently on harder ground

How to fight thrush effectively

Many horse owners despair of getting thrush under control in the long term. The reason is simple: usually only a preparation is applied to the hoof frog, which is supposed to eliminate thrush. But if the root cause is not addressed, then this is a battle against windmills.

In order to get rid of thrush in the long term, both the causes must be combated and the acute infection must be treated. The problem must be viewed and solved from two sides, so to speak.

Strahlfäule am Huf behandeln

Improve posture

First of all, sufficient hygiene and exercise must be ensured. To do this, your horse should stand dry and clean for several hours a day and be able to move freely.

Depending on how bad the situation already is, the ground conditions may also have to be changed. If the frog has already degenerated badly and there is a massive bunion or heel compulsion, a flexible layer on a harder surface should be provided. Sandy soil is ideal for this. On such a ground, the hoof can sink in and the (wasted) frog regains contact with the ground. In this way, the frog is stimulated and stimulated to grow and can again make its contribution to the hoof mechanism - and counteract an existing heel or ball pressure.

Process hooves regularly

Correct hoof trimming at the right intervals is an important component in getting thrush under control. Affected horn parts should be removed cleanly. The bars should be shortened to a functional level and any levers – including those on the hoof wall – should be removed. If necessary, the position of the hoof must also be corrected if the rear heel area is overloaded.

Clean hooves properly and treat thrush

The last step is to fight the infection itself. In superficial cases, daily scraping and, if necessary, thorough scrubbing with a mild soap (e.g. curd soap or green soap) is sufficient.

In the case of deep-seated thrush, on the other hand, the affected areas must be treated daily with a suitable agent. It is less important which means is used, but much more how it is used. First, the infected collateral groove must be thoroughly cleaned of the eaten material. It has proven useful to wrap a thin, soft cloth around a rounded wooden stick and pull it through the collateral groove until the black, greasy layer is removed. If your horse reacts sensitively, you have to be extremely careful: you may already be dealing with exposed dermis and this should not be irritated by the cleaning!

before after comparison:

Strahlfäule beim Pferd

Strahlfäule behandelt

After that you can finally apply the remedy of your choice. The same applies here: if the thrush is already very deep and there is a suspicion that the dermis is already affected, caution is advised. In these cases, only very mild agents may be used in order not to further irritate the dermis. Essential oils or vinegar-based preparations are suitable for this. Colloidal silver has also proven effective in some cases.

It is important that the applied agent actually ends up where it is needed: in the depth of the collateral fissure.It often makes sense to soak a piece of gauze bandage with the chosen substance and insert it deep into the collateral groove. This packing should then remain in the hoof and be renewed every two to three days at the latest (or as soon as the old material has fallen out by itself).

If the thrush is still rather superficial, more drying agents can be used, to which copper sulfate or zinc oxide, for example, is added. Toothpaste or mouthwash can also be used as home remedies - after all, these are the same bacteria as in our mouth. To do this, however, it is essential to ensure that the thrush does not already reach the sensitive dermis!

As a final measure, a local antibiotic can also be applied if prescribed by a veterinarian. However, one should always be aware that the antibiotic eventually migrates into the soil on which the horse is standing. Especially when grazing, it should therefore be carefully considered whether all other options have really been exhausted and, in particular, whether the causes have been eliminated. Only then will any other treatment for thrush be successful.

Author: Nathalie Kurz



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