Detecting and Treating White Line Disease in Horses
White Line Disease is a hoof infection caused by fungi, bacteria, or a combination of both that destroys tissue connection within the hoof. Here’s how to you can detect, treat it and prevent it.
White Line Disease is a hoof infection caused by fungi, bacteria, or a combination of both that destroys tissue connection within the hoof. The disease gets its name from a powdery, crumbly, white residue that is visible when the hoof is trimmed. This residue is made of the hoof’s disintegrating white line area. White Line Disease is also known as Seedy Toe.
The fungi or bacteria enter the hoof via old nail holes, cracks and other weak points. Once inside, they slowly erode the layers of connective tissue or laminae that make up a healthy hoof and hold the coffin bone in place. The coffin bone is the largest bone in a horse’s hoof and helps shape the hoof wall. The destructive organisms lead to cavities and weaknesses within the hoof. If left unchecked, the hoof slowly disintegrates from the inside out and requires professional care to treat it.
Detecting White Line Disease
If you see white residue, take swift action to get it diagnosed by your farrier or veterinarian to prevent worsening internal separation of the interior hoof laminae. But here’s the tough part: you can’t actually see the infection. Even though the disease enters from the outside, it doesn’t spread to the hoof’s exterior, it only attacks the vital internal hoof tissue. The pathogens that make up White Line Disease are anaerobic, meaning they cannot tolerate exposure to oxygen. That makes the interior of a horse hoof the perfect place for them to thrive without interruption. Perhaps a more accurate name or description for this hoof infection is “hoof wall separation” since the infection separates the white line hoof tissue from the interior hoof laminae.
Luckily, this disease is not fast-acting. It’s a sneaky infection that has the tendency to be easily overlooked. When White Line Disease is caught in the early stages, it is easily and quickly treatable. As with so many infections, early detection is key to successful treatment without complications.
Treating White Line Disease
Most veterinarians and farriers agree that the most effective treatment for White Line Disease follows a two-step process. First, begin with an x-ray of the affected hoof. An x-ray will assess the damage and determine the extent of the infection. This step must not be skipped, as there are no visual cues you can rely on to accurately assess the infection’s severity. It is important to determine how far inside the hoof the damage traveled which can affect the integrity of the hoof. No hoof, no horse!
The second step is to resect the affected area of the hoof (either by drilling holes or hoof removal) to expose the offending organisms to oxygen and treat with a solution, such as Banixx.
In minor cases, conventional procedures call for the infection to be first dug out using a small pick, hoof nippers, a knife or a Dremel-type tool followed by the chemical treatment. More advanced cases might require the removal of the diseased tissue (this means the hoof tissue) to expose the disease’s anaerobic pathogens to oxygen that spells their demise.
Some success has been achieved with an easier and less invasive process such as drilling access holes at the top of the infection site. A time-honored practice in more complicated cases is the removal of areas of the hoof wall. However, removing large areas of the hoof wall will compromise hoof stability and likely result in your horse needing a special custom shoe. While this doesn’t sound particularly frightening, there is danger if your horse loses this shoe.
A common issue with the traditional method of trimming away affected hoof tissue is that it simply isn’t comprehensive enough. If even the littlest smidge of white line disease infection is left, it will multiply and you’ll be back to square one.
Banixx has even proven to be effective at eradicating stubborn, long-afflicting White Line Disease thanks to its unique pH level which completely inhibits the growth of any fungi or bacteria.
Applying Banixx for Treatment
To apply Banixx the hoof must be awash in the solution. You can set up this treatment via a medicine boot or via a homemade device which possesses an entry point where you can re-apply Banixx. A clean, used, saline IV bag (obtained from your vet) may serve well for this purpose if a medicine boot is not available.
In summary, with Banixx, you change the pH of the hoof environment to arrest infection but render no damage to healthy hoof tissue. This method also avoids accidentally exposing your horse to potentially harmful chemicals such as copper sulfate, formaldehyde or certain chemicals found in iodine-based treatments. Banixx is safe for your horse and you, as well as safe for the environment.
Preventing White Line Disease
Although White Line Disease may be a common problem, do not disregard it as a “minor disease.” If allowed to progress, your horse may require extensive hoof repair, treatment, and rest – that means no riding potentially for months while incurring significant expense. Keep your horse’s feet current with a qualified farrier; it’s a much more cost-effective solution.
White Line Disease loves to grow in mostly warm, moist climates, although it’s not uncommon for horses living in dry climates to suffer from it. It can affect both shod and unshod feet, and it can affect one hoof as easily as it can affect multiple. Even horses being reared under the most sanitary conditions can succumb to it.
Remember that regular hoof care and good hygiene are your best defense against White Line Disease. Moreover, it’s vital to note that even with an “abnormal” hoof confirmation, a defensive, well-thought out trim job goes a long way to avoiding this disease. Additionally, knowing what to look for, such as the appearance of crumbly, white granules in the area where the firm white line used to be or an unexplained lameness that suddenly develops can serve as a signal to investigate more deeply. Any hoof cavities that you discover should be quickly disinfected with a high-quality antifungal/antibacterial product such as Banixx with follow up with your farrier and possibly your veterinarian. Early detection and effective treatment will greatly simplify you and your horse’s life!
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