EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

mi­crobes are what we call ker­ati­nolytic ker­atinopatho­genic mean­ing they de­grade the ker­atin of the hoof wall says Burns. As the ker­atin-loving mi­crobes con­tinue to mul­ti­ply and spread up­ward through the hoof, they eat through the stra­tum medium which grad­u­ally opens a space be­tween the stra­tum in­tern um and the outer lay ers pro­gres­sive mented of the stra­tum wall. sep­a­ra­tion “This medium cre­ates in of the the a non­pig- chronic hoof wall,” At first Burns the adds. far­rier might see only a

at the toe or quar­ter dur­ing rou­tine trim­ming and shoe­ing. Over time, the horse may de­velop mild sore­ness, de­tectable with a hoof tester, and the sole may be­come in­creas­ingly flat. Tap­ping the outer hoof wall with a ham­mer may pro­duce a hol­low sound. If the sep­a­ra­tion be­comes ex­ten­sive, the horse will be­come se­verely lame in that foot.

In a worst-case sce­nario, so few con­nec­tions re­main be­tween the stra­tum in­ter­num and the stra­tum medium that they can­not sup­port the weight placed on the hoof, and the strain on the soft lam­i­nae un­derneath may cause them to stretch and tear, al­low­ing the cof­fin bone to sink or ro­tate down­ward. This is a po­ten­tially crip­pling con­di­tion known as founder. Once this hap­pens, the horse may never be fully sound again.


The key to avoid­ing the worst ef­fects of white line disease is to de­tect and treat it in its ear­li­est stages, while the area of hoof af­fected is still small. That means mon­i­tor­ing your horse’s feet, keep­ing them clean and di­rect­ing your far­rier’s at­ten­tion to any­thing you no­tice that might be ab­nor­mal---a widen­ing of the white line, for ex­am­ple, with a pow­dery, chalky sur­face that flakes

away. If you’re un­sure of what you’re look­ing at, take a pho­to­graph and send it to your far­rier for an opin­ion.

Chances are, though, your far­rier will be the first to no­tice a de­vel­op­ing prob­lem. “Horse own­ers are of­ten lim­ited in their abil­ity to de­tect it be­cause they are not do­ing the trim­ming,” says Todd Allen, CJF, APF, a far­rier in Van­der­grift, Penn­syl­va­nia. “It is usu­ally up to the far­rier to make the owner aware that it’s there.”

To treat white line disease, the far­rier will first pare or scrape away the af­fected ma­te­rial, then treat the ex­posed area with some sort of dis­in­fec­tant. “As soon as I see even a tiny spot or im­per­fec­tion in the hoof, I treat it. If it’s a very small area, it might be just the size of a nail head, but you see the pow­dery tell­tale sign of white line disease,” says Allen. “Early on I try to do it in just a mod­er­ately in­va­sive way, in hopes I can treat it top­i­cally and nip it in the bud. I tell the owner I will be con­ser­va­tive this time and see what it does, and if that doesn’t re­solve it I may have to take it off.”

“Take it off” means re­sect­ing--cut­ting back---the hoof wall to re­move all of the in­fected ma­te­rial and ex­pose the un­der­ly­ing healthy sur­face. “If you catch white line disease very early, I think it’s preventabl­e, but any time it gets a toe­hold you have to re­sect it,” Allen says.

At that stage, a vet­eri­nar­ian will need to be in­volved. “The vet­eri­nar­ian and the far­rier can work to­gether as a team, pos­si­bly us­ing ra­dio­graphs to de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the sep­a­ra­tion,” says Burns. “Cut­ting away the dam­aged por­tion of hoof wall and ex­pos­ing the mi­crobes to ul­tra­vi­o­let light and air is the most im­por­tant thing.”

If the in­fec­tion had pro­gressed higher up into the hoof, the re­sec­tion can be quite dra­matic. But the far­rier will need to con­tinue cut­ting away hoof wall un­til he has ex­posed healthy tis­sue on all the mar­gins. “You need to carve away the dead part of the wall and get all of it out, get­ting back into nor­mal, healthy tis­sue,” says Ste­ward. Typ­i­cally, the re­sec­tion stops at the epi­der­mal layer---the sen­si­tive lam­i­nae un­derneath are not ex­posed, and the re­sec­tion does not bleed.

Depend­ing on the ap­pear­ance of the sur­face that re­mains, your far­rier and vet­eri­nar­ian may also opt to ap­ply some sort of an­timi­cro­bial treat­ment. “Any­thing that looks sus­pect should be treated with a topical med­i­ca­tion, and what I use de­pends on what I see; there are a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts,” says Allen. These might in­clude gen­eral an­ti­sep­tics, as well as prod­ucts la­beled for treat­ing other in­fec­tions, such as thrush.

Your far­rier will leave you with in­struc­tions for daily care of the treated hoof. You will need to keep the hoof clean and dry, and in some cases, reap­ply the topical dis­in­fec­tant pe­ri­od­i­cally. The horse’s turnout may need be lim­ited, par­tic­u­larly in wet con­di­tions, and his stall bed­ding will need to be kept dry. In sub­se­quent visits, your far­rier will track the progress of the hoof’s re­growth and make fur­ther treat­ment rec­om­men­da­tions as needed. In dif­fi­cult cases, he may con­sult fur­ther with your vet­eri­nar­ian. “Any time white line disease be­comes re­frac­tory to nor­mal treat­ment or is pro­gress­ing even with treat­ment, we en­cour­age the owner to get a vet­eri­nar­ian in­volved,” says Burns.

Be­cause white line disease af­fects

mid­dle layer of hoof wall in­ter­nal layer of hoof wall white line apex of frog hoof wall cof­fin bone hoof wall sen­si­tive (der­mal) lam­i­nae in­sen­si­tive (epi­der­mal) lam­i­nae white line sole frog bulbs of the heels deep dig­i­tal flexor ten­don short pastern...

HEAL­ING: To treat white line disease, a far­rier re­moves the in­fected tis­sue and dead ma­te­rial from the hoof to ex­pose the healthy un­der­ly­ing sur­face. He may then ap­ply an­timi­cro­bial med­i­ca­tion.

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