Wet Conditions And White Line Disease In Horses

It’s been an excessively soggy spring in many parts of the United States, raising equine wellness concerns for some horse owners and caretakers whose animals are outside for the majority of the day. While rain can wreak havoc on equine skin and coats, it can also damage hoof health.

White line disease, also called seedy toe, can severely compromise a horse’s soundness if steps aren’t taken to eradicate it. In a healthy hoof, the walls of the hoof are connected tightly to the coffin bone by the lamina; the end of the lamina are what produce the actual “white line” seen on the underside of a hoof. The hoof wall is strong and grows down from the coronary band, while the thinner, inner wall is susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections like the ones that cause white line disease.

Interestingly, white line disease doesn’t actually infect the white line; it affects the inner hoof wall. Horses standing in wet grass or mud are more susceptible to these infections. The bacteria or fungus invades the hoof and breaks down the keratin of the inner hoof wall. Bacteria can get into the hoof through a variety of ways, including through hoof-wall flares that stress the connection between the hoof wall and the sole and through too-long hoof walls that compromise the connection between the hoof wall and the bone.

As both issues can invite white line, it’s important that the outer wall of the hooves be rasped after every trim. The hoof should also never be trimmed flat, as this encourages loading of the hoof wall, which can invite flares and thus white line disease. Each hoof should have a cup shape.

Proper care of hooves as well as keeping them dry when possible can help prevent white line disease from taking hold in horse’s hooves.

Read more at Equine Wellness Magazine.

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