As wet Autumn weather arrives here in the Pacific Northwest, livestock such as horses, cattle, goats, and sheep need extra attention and care to keep their hooves and feet healthy. Thrush, caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast, thrives in warmer wet conditions. When left to proliferate, it can lead to problems like foot rot, and, in severe cases, can lead to lameness. Animals that are pastured in muddy fields, with no dry spot to stand in, often get thrush. Hooves develop a distinctive, unpleasant odor, and inflammation can lead to painful walking. When this occurs, action must be taken as soon as possible.
Make sure to properly and frequently trim and clean hooves. Thrush can hide between the digits of cloven hooves of sheep, goats, and cattle. The area may appear red, like an irritated scrape, and can be tender. Even a small irritation between the digits of sheep, goat, and cattle hooves can invite disease-causing yeast into the foot.
The best recipe for preventing thrush build up and hoof rot is to support your animals’ natural immune systems with good nutrition and optimal living conditions. Keep stalls and shelters clean and free from urine and feces build up. Treat any irritations in the hoof quickly and improve living conditions as best you can.
For horses, hoof rot infection affects the clefts of the frog and sometimes the sole of the foot, especially along the white line. In the early stages of thrush, there is merely a little dark coloration and grime around the frog, or dark soft spots along the white line of the sole—plus the bad odor. Clefts might appear deeper than normal. To clear the problem, keep the foot cleaner and drier and apply iodine or a thrush product daily to the affected areas to kill the bacteria. Riding or exercising the horse regularly will help prevent thrush build up. Getting out of the wet paddock or pasture to travel on dry ground, your horse’s feet have a chance to dry out. As the hoof expands and contracts with each step during exercise, this action dislodges mud and debris – inhibiting the build-up of infectious bacteria.
Here at the Snohomish and Monroe Co-Op, we have multiple products on the shelf to help treat and prevent thrush outbreaks causing foot rot. Dr. Naylor’s Hoof ‘N Heal is one of our team’s favorite. It safely treats hoof rot, foot rot, and foot scald with no withdrawal period. It is also an effective treatment for white line disease in horses, which is also an indicator of thrush build-up that can lead to hoof rot.
Start by trimming any excess hoof. You want a nice clean surface to work with. Use a hoof pick to clean out the hoof and make sure there aren't rocks or any other debris causing the lameness. Use a damp rag to gently clean between the toes to remove any dirt, hair or other debris. Once the wounded area is cleaned, pour the Hoof n' Heel over the foot. Drench the infected tissue and surrounding tissue. Hold the foot upside down for a minute or two to make sure that the infected tissue soaks up the medication. Don't dry it or dab it. Treat twice daily until the tissue is dry and no longer infected.
Kopertox is another alternative that can be used on the bottom of the foot. Sold at both the Snohomish and Monroe Co-Op, Kopertox provides water-resistant protection without bandaging. Make sure the hoof is thoroughly cleaned and trimmed before applying Kopertox. You don’t want to seal in any dirt or bacteria.
Thrush-Rid is another favorite product to prevent and treat thrush. Thrush-Rid helps to toughen soles and can be used under pads. It is long-lasting and contains a purple color to show where the product is working. If needed, once the color starts fading, apply additional coats. Thrush-Rid is so effective, it often only needs one treatment. To prevent thrush, clean hooves thoroughly and apply Thrush-Rid once a week during wet and muddy conditions.
Don’t let thrush and hoof-rot get your animals down. Visit our friendly teams at the Snohomish and Monroe Co-Op to find treatments and preventative products to support the foot health of your animals. We are here to support all of your livestock and homesteading needs.