If you're a horse owner, sooner or later you'll deal with thrush. Neglected horses living in wet conditions are the most vulnerable, but even well-kept horses occasionally come down with this common infection. A serious case requires veterinary or farrier care, but a mild case of thrush responds to a homemade or commercial concoction. Your local tack shop likely has a shelf full of inexpensive thrush remedies, but those you make yourself are recommended by such top facilities as Kentucky's famous Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital.
Thrush in Horses
Formally known as pododermatitis, thrush occurs when anaerobic bacteria, which don't need oxygen, invade the hoof structure. Thrush also involves certain fungi. Signs of thrush are unmistakable, including a foul smell and black crud emanating from the sulcus in your horse's frog. Parts of the frog may slough off. In severe cases, the horse becomes lame. Left untreated, thrush can progress to more aggressive and difficult-to-treat infections, including white line disease and canker. If you notice pus or blood in the crevices of your horse's frog, stop using commercial or homemade remedies and call the vet immediately.
Lower the odds of your horse developing thrush by keeping his stall clean, keeping him out of muddy or wet areas, and cleaning his hooves daily. All horses need regular farrier work.
Sugardine or sugardyne is a simple paste consisted of equal amounts of white sugar and povidone iodine solution. While the latter is a broad-spectrum antiseptic, ordinary sugar also has antiseptic properties. Soak cotton pads with sugardine and pack them into the crevices of the frog daily until you see improvement. A similar paste, honeydine, consisting of povidone iodine and honey, also works. However, honeydine is a lot stickier to work with than sugardine.
Diluted Bleach Treatment
One old and effective standby for thrush treatment is diluted bleach. The North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine recommends using small cotton facial pads -- available at drugstores -- and soaking them with bleach diluted with 10 parts water. Clean the hoof, then place the soaked pad deep into the crevices of the frog with your hoof pick. If necessary, you'll also place a pad in the central sulcus crevice -- that crack, above the heel, that shouldn't be there in a healthy hoof. Change the pads daily for a week. After another week, the sulcus should close. Mild cases of thrush, with no sulcus crack, usually respond to diluted bleach poured on the affected areas for several days in a row.
Other Effective Agents
Besides bleach, you can use other effective bacteria-killing agents on your horse to eradicate thrush. Chlorhexidine, diluted to 4 parts of the antiseptic to 1 part water, will fill the bill. So will povidone iodine, diluted 1 part to 8 parts water. Use povidone iodine, not tincture of iodine -- the latter is too harsh. If you're familiar with a common purple commercial thrush product, you may know that it consists primarily of gentian violet. That once-common antiseptic also does the trick. If you'll use it daily, you should notice improvement in your horse's feet within a few days. Tea tree oil is another over-the-counter remedy.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.