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Thrush Medicines

Thrush Meds.
  If your horse develops thrush or already has it, it can be confusing to try to pick what is appropriate. While most commercial preparations work to kill thrush, many also harm good tissue, and can perpetuate the problem. Some home remedies just don't work, and you'll hear conflicting stories about all of them. If you've read over the rest of my site, you may well know that I think most thrush is highly preventable. This page is mostly just about what chemicals are going to help treat the symptom (thrush) while you work on fixing the real problem.
   Why don't I recommend most commercial remedies? Well, they usually contain quite a cocktail of harmful chemicals that I wouldn't want to keep around, including formaldehyde.  Would YOU put them on your feet if you had some athlete's foot? I think on a short term basis, if you had no other choice, and followed the label, you would probably do okay, to get rid of some thrush, but it frequently comes back right after you stop treatment, because the same chemicals that killed the thrush, also killed some of the live, healthy tissue and created an environment just right for feeding thrush. Vicious circle.
    A home remedy that I do NOT recommend for thrush in the frog is bleach. Chlorine bleach is a known carcinogen, and again, kills healthy tissues, and it stings if it gets on the skin or near the eyes. Too risky with little return. The only advantage here is that it's cheap, but is that a good reason if it's the only one? Also, Hydrogen peroxide is not very helpful with thrush. I do have a use for it, but not on the sole. So many organisms live in there in a healthy hoof, it just foams up, makes a mess and doesn't seem to really do well for this purpose. All that fizzing creates some heat and could sting sensitive, thrushy frogs.
   Treatments that I recommend :
     1. Apple Cider Vinegar mixed 50/50 with water.  It's so harmless it's edible so I have no problem putting it on a horse, and since it doesn't hurt healthy tissues, it doesn't perpetuate the problem. I use an ordinary spray bottle and just douse the whole frog and along either side. A few, with sensitive skin, may get some mild irritation from it if it runs up above the hairline on a regular basis, but it's not going to do any harm beyond that. It works because the vinegar will change the pH in the hoof tissues. Did you know that thrush, as it eats the frog material (and the sweat from the glands around the frog) is an alkaline exudate? ACV will make it more acidic, thereby making it a more hostile environment for the yeast, fungus and bacteria that make up the thrush. This also works well as a preventative if you have a wet spell and you can't get your horse to better, drier ground. It's not to replace good husbandry, but can help if you can't dot all those "i's" .
   2.  "Pete's Goo" , a mix of athletes' foot med (clortrimazole 1% and triple antibiotic with pain relief) works wonders on a certain kind of thrush that infects the central sulcus of the frog, making it look more like a butt crack than a valley. A cc every day for 2 weeks or more will do wonders. ACV is more appropriate for the kind with the black, tarry, rotten smelling discharge. Pete's Goo is better for a yeasty, dry infection.  Use a small tip syringe to insert into the cleft as deep as you can.
    3. Mastitis medication for cows can work, but really, the first two mentioned are probably the easiest to come by, and work fine, but I mention this as an option. If you have cows, this may be handy for you.
    4. White Lightening or Clean Trax which are also helpful with white line disease or persisten toe cracks. These work by vapor action and require plastic bags, so may not be appropriate if your horse thinks monsters live in those bags. This is not the cheapest method, but worth mentioning.

Preventative Treatments

  Preventative action, (aside from that good husbandry; diet and trims and picking out your horses feet on a regular basis) can include spraying on ACV about once or twice a week during wet periods. Sometimes you just can't get your horse out of a stall to exercise or its rained so much it's even muddy inside the barn, making manure removal nearly impossible-- those would be good examples.  Or, your horse just came out of shoes, has withered, and has sloughed off thrushy frogs. He's not getting any frog stimulation since you can't just yank off shoes, whack off heels and go. You can pack the foot with a packing material for that purpose and let him wear it out naturally. It will keep the manure from filling that void, treat the infection, and could even help stimulate and protect the frog some. It's not a replacement for good management, but a helpful step sometimes in the interim. Just repack whatever you accidentally pick out as the packing can look just as nasty as "toe jam".
   I can't stress enough how important overall good husbandry is. Thrush is really just a symptom that something else isn't right.  Some horses can stand in mud and never get thrush, if the rest of the equation is in balance. Trims, exercise, relatively clean environment and good feed all contribute. If you horse is sick, old or has a metabolic problem such as Cushings, he is more susceptible. If he's hurting elsewhere, thrush can pop up because he's compensating and not using his foot normally and the frog doesn't get the right stimulation to stay healthy. A sugary diet (SWEET FEED) or a farrier that likes to trim too much off the frog (this makes it sore and equals a toe first landing and creates a wound that the horse has to overcome at each trimming, too).
   If only one horse in your barn is getting thrush and all else is equal, look into that horse's health and soundness. If all of them are getting it, look into your management.