How to spot and Treat Thrush in Horses – Updated for 2022

November 10, 2022
For Horses
horse hoof

Thrush is a vile bacterial infection afflicting horses’ hooves no matter where you live!

It’s hard to imagine something smelling or looking as bad as horse poop. 

But then there’s thrush: an absolutely vile bacterial infection that afflicts horses’ hooves no matter where you live!

In this short blog, we’re going to go over what thrush is, what causes it, how to treat, and how to prevent thrush. 

Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll be able to identify thrush and treat it quickly so your horse can get back to galloping without a care in the world. 

Quick facts about thrush in horses

  • Thrush is a bacterial and fungal infection which often results from living in wet, muddy conditions and poor hoof picking habits
  • Thrush is best treated with a combination of removing as much of the infection as possible and regularly cleaning the site with a clinical solution
  • Thrush is best prevented by regularly picking horses’ hooves, keeping their habitats clean and dry, and having their hooves inspected and worked on by a qualified farrier

What is thrush in horses?

horse thrush

Image shows location of horse sulcus where secondary infection can occur due to thrush.

Thrush is a bacterial and fungal infection which degrades horses’ frogs and creates secondary bacterial infections in the central and collateral sulcus. Typically, it affects horses’ central sulcus if they have sheared heels, whereas lateral sulci are primarily affected in most cases of thrush. What does a horse hoof sulcus look like?  We have a handy photo to show you.

What are the symptoms of thrush in horses?

Let’s put this very gently: you cannot miss thrush

Symptoms of thrush include an absolutely putrid, rotten smell and a black, tar-like discharge that comes from the hoof. Typically, thrush affects the back hooves more than the front hooves and, if left untreated, begin affecting the lower limbs themselves. 

Over time, untreated thrush can cause a variety of unseemly and dangerous symptoms. Symptoms of severe thrush can include a recession of the frog, increased weight bearing on the affected heel, and eventual lameness.  

Does thrush hurt horses?

Thrush does not typically cause pain by itself.  However, given that thrush can eat its way into and expose the frog’s sensitive tissue underneath, it can be easy for horse owners to unknowingly pick the exposed area too deeply and cause their horse pain. This would indeed be the case if the horse’s (protective) frog has already been compromised and minimized by thrush,  In this case, the protective frog is almost nonexistent.  Imagine your car without its shocks, that’s what it feels like to your horse.  Moreover, horses who have narrow, upright feet and are more likely to have a closed up sulcus and a deep cleft between the heel bulbs; they may experience additional discomfort due to a thrush infection.

What causes thrush in horses?

sorrel horse running

One cause is lack of exercise which helps clean out the sulcus.

Thrush is a dirty infection. Literally – thrush is most often seen in horses who live in wet, muddy pens. However, the idea that “horse living in muddy conditions = guaranteed to get thrush” is not entirely accurate. It can be found in horses living in perfectly clean conditions, and sometimes it’s only found in one hoof when the horse is living in poor conditions. 

So, what gives? 

Well, thrush is likely caused by a couple of compounding factors. Namely, a combination of poor living conditions as well as poor foot conformation, poor trimming, and a lack of exercise. This last point is especially important, as exercise can help clean out the sulcus when the horse puts his weight down on the frog. This may prevent a thrush infection from taking root in the hoof.  Here’s how it works.  As the frog experiences a mild concussion from a normal hoof contact to the ground, dirt and debris are expelled from this area, keeping it cleaner.

How to treat thrush in horses

banixx horse spray on thrush

Hoof after Banixx usage-Effective!-no stains!-no mess!

To treat thrush at home, begin by moving the horse into a dry, clean environment. Then, you or your farrier will need to debride the frog and sulcus to reveal the infection. From there, farriers will clean and pick out the black debris from the hooves. If the dirt and muck won’t budge, the farrier may flush out the frog with water and hydrogen peroxide before using a wire brush on the area.  

Once the mud and muck has been removed, the infected area must be cleaned with a thrush treatment solution. For this, we recommend you use Banixx. Banixx is a clinically-proven antibacterial and antifungal treatment that provides instant, sting-free and odor-free relief. And, it’s clear, it has no color so it won’t stain your hands, your barn aisle or if you have a grey horse, it wont stain your horse!

Best of all, it provides relief without relying on pesky antibiotics or steroids. Instead, Banixx’s unique pH creates an acidic environment which causes the organisms constituting a thrush infection to die – all without causing any harm to healthy tissue. This is in stark contrast to many other treatments that contain iodine or bleach. Repeated iodine treatments will eventually burn your horse’s tissue causing pain. The resultant pain makes treatment more difficult or even dangerous for you. Moreover, bleach will dry out your horse’s hoof tissue. That’s never a good thing.  Healthy hoof tissue needs an adequate moisture level to remain pliable. Both conditions will make the tissue in the hoof overly sensitive to treatment  

How long should I treat my horse?

After this initial treatment, horses with thrush will need to continue to receive treatment until the infection is gone. To ensure the it doesn’t return, the horse’s farrier must properly manicure and trim the horse’s hoof so they can evenly distribute weight across their hoof’s surface. Doing this will encourage the frog to grow back strong and healthy. The frogs themselves should also be trimmed in a manner that while the clefts may remain somewhat deep, the frog isn’t allowed to grow to a point where it is overlapping. This promotes self-cleaning of the clefts during a horse’s outside activities, including walking, exercising, playing, working, etc.

Over the next several weeks, continue to pair your horse’s trimming with repeated applications of treatment solution. Spray Banixx on your horse’s hoof  just twice a day. Once in morning and once at night. This is enough to provide substantial relief and protection from thrush infections. An alternative is to apply a boot to your horse’s hoof. Fill it with enough Banixx that the infection is awash in Banixx. Soak this way for 10 minutes. If you’re doubtful about the cleanliness of his environment, tape up his hoof with a little layer of gauze. Then duct tape or vet wrap overnight.

How to prevent thrush in horses

horse stall

Be sure to clean the area weekly to minimize the buildup of manure or other muck.

There’s no two neighs around it: the best prevention for thrush in horses is to clean your horse’s hooves and…often. Make sure to thoroughly clean the sides of the frog, as well as the frog itself. This will ensure your horse’s hooves are as clean as possible. If your horse is sensitive, you may be able to remove most hoof debris with a small wire brush.  Never DIG into your horse’s hoof to remove hoof rubbish…persuade its removal gently. 

Taking extra care of your horse’s surroundings will also help prevent this type of infection. If your horse lives in a stall, be sure to keep the bedding dry and clean. Or, if your horse lives in a run-in shed, make sure to clean the area weekly. This will minimize the buildup of manure or other muck. If your horse lives outdoors, make sure to be diligent with manure removal. Also, ensure there are adequate dry places for him to stand. 

Together, these steps should ensure the health and well-being of your horse’s hooves for ages. According to the Horse Journal, that is known for its independent opinions “…Banixx is documented to produce “fast results even with painful severe thrush, with the pain markedly decreased within one to two days” (Horse Journal, Dec 2009).

Of course, one of the easiest ways to keep your hooved pal feeling their best is to stay up to date with the latest in equine care by reading informative blogs in the horse blog section of the Banixx website! Or if you just want to be better informed about Thrush in horses, click here. After all, learning how to identify and treat as many different issues as possible is a simple way to keeping your horse happy and healthy…and YOU too! 






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