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Thrush – What are the causes and how to help a horse?

Published: 2023-05-09 12:49:21 Categories: Guides Rss feed , Products Rss feed


Every horse owner wants their animal to thrive. A horse with healthy hoofs is a happy horse, that's why you should know how to properly take care of them. This article will explain what thrush is and talk about the causes, prevention, and treatment including special medications.

Horses' hooves and legs are vulnerable to injuries, diseases, and breakage. A healthy hoof absorbs shocks created by walking. To keep the hoofs in good condition, they need to be cleaned regularly, and checked by a professional farrier, but also the owner needs to take care of the horse's immunity and keep a clean environment (clean bedding). By following these rules, an owner can decrease the likelihood of diseases – including thrush and mud fever – often viewed as a disease of negligence.

What is thrush?

Thrush is a disease that causes the frog to rot. The frog is easy to locate, even amateur riders have no problem naming it; it’s a soft and elastic element of the hoof that is shaped like a triangle. The frog is supposed to absorb shock. The frog consists of a point and two arms divided by a central frog groove. A healthy frog should be dry and pliant. The groove in the middle should be visible but not too deep.

Sometimes, the frog grooves get infected with anaerobic bacteria or fungi that lead to rot causing this disease. The condition is easy to identify; there is a dark discharge as well as an unpleasant smell and the frog becomes uneven and too soft (some fragments can fall off) with frayed ends. It’s crucial to begin treatment as soon as the thrush is identified because the untread condition can lead to hoof cancer.

Thrush symptoms

Thrush is quite easy to notice during regular check-ups of the hoofs. However, sometimes the owner spots symptoms only when there is visible lameness. In this case, it's important to focus on how the horse is walking. If the horse is putting its foot down starting from the toe, then the animal might have a sore frog and the back end of the hoof. The high sensitivity of the frog during hoof cleaning might also point to thrush. A hoof with thrush can be recognized by:

  • Soft and sore frog;

  • The soft and decaying frog point that might also be easy to separate. There might also be "pockets" where mud collects;

  • Dark brownish and greyish discharge that collects in the central groove;

  • The unpleasant, characteristic rotting smell;

  • Deep central groove without visible bottom.


Causes of thrush

Thrush signals that the horse's immune system is weakened. Poor circulation in the hoofs makes them susceptible to all kinds of infections. Thrush can be caused by either a bacterial or fungal infection. That's why affected hoofs will have a characteristic rotting smell. Responsible microorganisms thrive in moist environments; therefore, thrush is more common in horses that are kept in places with muddy and wet ground. The most common factors that cause thrush:

  • Too soft ground, wet bedding in a stall, muddy pasture;

  • Excess of non-structural carbohydrates in the horse's diet;

  • Incorrect trimming of the hoofs weakens and negatively affects the frog;

  • Slimmed hoof, too high or too low heel;

  • Poor circulation in the hoof;

  • Abnormally developed frogs in the hooves;

  • Insufficient amount of movement;

  • Deficiencies of elements, most commonly copper and zinc;

  • Allergic reactions.

How to prevent thrush?

The best way to prevent thrush is to keep a horse in good living conditions and care for its health. It's crucial to clean and check the hooves every day. A horse standing in mud and droppings is especially susceptible to hoof infections. Horses should have clean bedding and dry ground in the pasture. Additionally, one cannot forget about the important factor that influences the immune system – proper diet. It's also essential to regularly shoe or trim the horse's hooves.

Thrush doesn't have to be caused by dirty environment; it can also be a result of uneven steps due to incorrect trimming. Not many people know that when a horse walks the frog should touch the ground to absorb shock and ensure good blood circulation in the hoof. Otherwise, even if the horse is kept in good living conditions, the infection could occur.

To prevent a serious infection, you should treat the horse at the first sign of the condition. However, using medications is pointless, unless the underlying cause is found and the living conditions are good. It might also be useful to test a fragment of the hoof wall under a scanning microscope to determine the amount of micro and macroelements. This test will allow your vet to prepare a detailed dietary plan that will include all the necessary supplements. Supplementing deficiencies in a horse's diet will improve its immunity, hoof health and protect against infections of the frog.


Thrush treatment

If you notice your horse suffers from thrush, it’s crucial to act fast and consult your veterinarian as well as the farrier. The frog should be cleaned with a hoof pick and then the hoof should be washed; it needs to be regularly disinfected with appropriate agents such as copper sulfate, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic spray, or specialized preparations for thrush. Some of those medications come in the form of an ointment that needs to be applied directly onto infected frog grooves. If the medication is in a liquid form, then you can apply it onto a cotton swab and put it inside the frog groove.

Special frog preparations are available over the counter in Equishop that work in multiple ways: they disinfect, form a protective layer, nourish the hoof and promote healing. It's worth having a product like that at hand in case of any hoof problems. It's also a good idea to flush the frog with a care product from time to time. Equishop offers multiple care products for the frog:


It's important to remember that prevention is crucial in this condition. Regular hoof check-ups will allow you to catch the infection at an early stage and incorporate treatment quickly.If you notice any concerning signs and symptoms, contact your veterinarian.

If you are looking for care products for the frog, check out our offer.

Equestrian store: +48 784 039 784


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