White line disease is a buildup of bacteria and fungi that destroys hoof wall tissue. But for this to happen, there must be an opening for the bacteria and fungi to enter. Typically, a crack or separation within the hoof wall gives access to bacteria, resulting in this disease.
This separation occurs in the light-colored area known as the white line. While this isn’t always painful, it can lead to painful conditions, including abscesses and laminitis. And as the separation continues up towards the coronet, it can cause a lot of pain and discomfort and affect the horse’s mobility.
Sometimes white line disease can be confused with thrush—there are some important differences between the two! Thrush is a bacterial and fungal infection of the horse’s frog and often presents with a foul smell and thick, black discharge around the frog area. On the other hand, white line disease is a bacterial and fungal infection that affects the horse’s hoof wall. The infection can be present in the hoof wall starting at the toe, quarter, or heel.
The exact cause of the separation of the hoof wall that leads to this disease is still unknown. It can occur in any horse regardless of age, gender, and breed. And, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference if a horse is shod or barefoot.
There are some proposed risk factors for hoof wall separation:
Horses can develop white line disease in just one hoof or even in all four. You will notice a flakey or powdery texture to the hoof wall where it should be solid. When you tap on the outside of the hoof wall, it will also sound hollow.
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Any form of disease in horses is scary. But there’s good news: white line disease can be cured by a farrier. Before they begin the treatment, any abnormalities in the hoof need to be addressed. From there, the bulk of treatment comes a resection of the hoof wall. The farrier will cut away and remove all the layers of the infected hoof wall. Once healthy tissue has been revealed, they can sand and smooth it out.
This process may look scary as a horse owner. But the hoof wall is not a sensitive tissue, and the hoof resection doesn’t hurt the horse at all! Depending on how dramatic the resection was, the farrier may add additional support to the hoof with a special glue-on shoe.
After a hoof resection, it’s essential to keep the horse’s hooves as dry and clean as possible. In addition, the farrier should come out every two weeks to support proper healing.
The best way to prevent white line disease is to reduce the risk of hoof wall separation.
Here are some other preventive tips:
Looking for more horse care tips? Check out our other horse care articles.
I’ve been around horses my entire life, but my Friesian journey started just over 20 years ago. Our horses have always been a part of our family. They have traveled with us as we relocated from Vermont to New York to Iowa and finally, to Arizona. I can’t wait to share our story with you!
Mar 20, 2022
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