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Thrush Treatment Summary

Over the past two years, several new strategies for fighting thrush have become popular, and several old methods of treating Thrush have lost their popularity.

Whatever you use, if its taking more than a week or two to get rid of the greasy looking frogs and tenderness associated with thrush, you should revisit your treatment plan, starting with a reality check about how clean you get the infected frogs on a daily basis, and verifying that the treatment you're using is appropriate for the thrush your horse has.

Visit the Whole Horse Health Yahoo group for more advice on thrush! This group isn't just about barefoot, we talk about about diet, environment, vet care body work, chiropractic, acupuncture and acupressure. There are more than 18 professional trimmers and 3 or 4 farrier's on the list (who also do barefoot trimming), and folks who shoe are welcome here too. It is a low volume list right now. It is a restricted group in that it is closed to people trimming invasively or promoting an invasive trim approach.

Clean Thrushy Feet - Then Keep Them Clean!

One aspect of the treatment that most people disregard is the importance of **really** cleaning the frog thoroughly on a daily basis and prior to treatment. Depending on how severe your horses thrush is, cleaning has different meanings.

"Cleaning" means picking out the hoof thoroughly once or twice a day for mild thrush that is a fine black line at the bottom of the commisure) with a hoof pick.

"Cleaning" also means a total foot bath with Lysol dilution or Dawn dish washing detergent with a good brush scrubbing in the wash rack if you have an infection that is taking more than a week or two to clear up!

If thrush has been an ongoing problem for you? Think of it as a bacterial infection in the horses foot, an open wound, and institute a daily scrubbing routine to accelerate the healing process. Use a scrub or wire brush to get the frog and all the cracks immaculate, then flush the frog with running water, dry it with toweling and proceed to soak with Lysol, Oxine, Clean Trax or White Lightning.

After treatments, dry the frog off and apply Zinc Oxide ointment (Desitin) over the frog and work it into all the cracks and crevices.

Cleaning infected feet daily and thoroughly is the best way to insure that your treatments won't be a waste of time or drag on for months.

Oxine Soaks

This extremely popular and very effective solution is something worked on jointly by many members of the Yahoo Barefoothorsecare group, which is my favorite online forum for discussing barefoot horse care. Many of us had tried a variety of methods for managing thrush, and some of the members uncovered Oxine and came up with the formula in conjunction with the manufacturer or the distributor.

I purchase my Oxine and Citric Acid from Revival Animal Health's store: Oxine AH Gallon by BioCide International (Approx. $25) and Citric Acid (approx. $5)

Oxine is Chlorine Dioxide, a sanitizer used widely in the food processing industry, and it makes an easy and aggressive but safe soaking solution. It's mixed with Citric Acid to activate it, then diluted with water and used in a soaking boot, bag or bucket.

CAUTION: Some horses skin is irritated by the Oxine, so I suggest that care is taken not to mix it too strong or leave the soakers on longer than 20 minutes. We've had reports of horses getting tender from over soaking as well. If you have a sensitive horse, start with a milder solution. Avoid contact with your eyes, and don't inhale the fumes from the activating Oxine!

The dilutions for soaking are:

1 gal water, 4 oz Oxine, 1 tsp citric Acid
1/2 gal water, 2 oz Oxine,1/2 tsp citric acid
1 qt water, 1 oz Oxine, 1/4 tsp citric acid

Oxine DOES NOT need to be mixed with Citric Acid to be used! It can be very effective if mixed with water. Citric Acid activation makes it a more powerful soak.

  • Clean the horses feet thoroughly, scrub the frog well, trim any shedding or lose frog flaps and put the horses feet in soaking boots
  • If the horse has deep cracks and flaps that can't be removed, push cotton deep enough into the cracks to hold them open while soaking. This cotton will need to be removed later!
  • Mix as much Oxine as you will be able to use immediately. Mix the Oxine and citric acid together and wait exactly 3 minutes for the solution to become active, then add water.
  • Fill the soaking boots to the level of the walls or slightly higher; the objective is to immerse and soak the frog and sole, so I cover the wall but don't fill the whole boot.
  • Soak for 20 minutes, remove boots and rise with water. I suggest daily soaking for 2 or 3 days with monthly treatments as needed.

Oxine Topical Treatment

I have experimented with mixing Oxine in a large catheter tube and flushing cracks in the frog out as a topical treatment in between soaks, and have had great results.

I always suggest that people scrub the frog thoroughly with a soap like Dawn Dish Detergent and rinse completely, because I've found that scrubbing alone is a powerful treatment. 

To mix, pull Oxine into the tube, then draw water into the tube until full and shake. Insert catheter tip into cracks and irrigate gently.

From BioCide

Deb, o ne of our BarefootHorseCare contributors, called John Craggs 515-577-9979, a representative of BIOcIDE International Inc., maker of Oxine. 

John said that the type of  water we use with Oxine makes a difference. If well water has high iron levels, Oxine will be less effective, so its better to use de ionized water if you have high iron levels.

He also said that Oxine dilution kills bacteria on contact, so is a good topical treatment.

For initially treating tough thrush infections, he suggested soaking 3 times a week for a month using the:  4 oz, 1 tsp citric acid, 1 gallon of water. For maintenance, he suggests 3 oz Oxine, 2 tsp citric acid, 1 gallon water.

White Lightning and Clean Trax

(see White Lightning Page and Clean Trax pages ) - These both remain very popular, but are more difficult to use than the solutions listed on this page. Both have strong advantages for use to treat Thrush, White Line Disease and Canker. Clean Trax is still preferred by many for While Line Disease treatment, and I've had it work on thrush that nothing else would touch.

Usnea Tinctured in Organic Grain Alcohol

Usnea Tincture is a fast and easy topical treatment for mild to moderate Thrush, particularly good for days when there isn't time for a hoof soak. I don't suggest using it for severe to extreme cases. Usnea is a tree lichen that has anti fungal properties and has been used as a medicine for centuries. ( Wikipedia description link ).

I suggest applying it daily for 3 days then every 3 or 4 days as needed. Feet need to be thoroughly picked out prior to a Usnea application.

My friend Carol Nieukirk got me started using Usnea tinctures (she uses grape seed alcohol), and gave me several 2 ounce bottles last year. To my delight, when several drops are applied topically it immediately soothed horses thrush symptoms (horses love the stuff). Carol's Usnea is the best I've ever used, by far the most effective. She sells it wholesale in $200 minimum orders. Carol Nieukirk, West County Botanicals, CAROL@OAEC.ORG, (707) 874-1557 x 207

For people needing inexpensive Usnea, I found a great place to buy quantity Usnea here: Again, this isn't as effective as Carols, but it's still a very good option.

Item# Item Name Our Price  
153G Tincture, Usnea (Organic) - 1 gallon $127.95
153H Tincture, Usnea (Organic) - 1/2 gallon $81.10
15316 Tincture, Usnea (Organic) - 16 fl oz $24.45
1534 Tincture, Usnea (Organic) - 4 fl oz $8.85
153P Tincture, Usnea (Organic) - 5 gallons $552.50

Grapefruit Seed Extract

2 drops per oz of water. A 16 oz bottle needs about 32 drops. Shake very very well before each use.   You can make it stronger for more serious cases; its not an exact science.  If you don't get results use more drops. 

I used this solution to treat my horses Pigeon Fever abscess after it vented and the healing was very impressive. I also use this solution to soak any areas that get ringworm or any other skin fungus.

Broad spectrum means it kills a lot of different microbes.  Grapefruit seed extract has many constituents like most herbal preparations, so it is very hard for microbes to develop resistance or mutations. I have heard some controversy, but it worked for me

Lysol & Borax Soaks

Several years ago, many of us were resorting to soaking thrushy or yeasty feet in Lysol or Borax dilutions. These soaks were often effective if used diligently for several days in a row once every two or three weeks, but the results were unpredictable, and the thrush often subsided for a month or two only to flare up again. Pete Ramey still loves his Lysol, and I still use it for foot scrubs, ut there are more options now.

Pete's Goo

A brainchild of Pete Ramey, this is a combination of triple antibiotic cream (such as Neosporin) and athletes foot cream (several have been tried successfully) which is mixed in a syringe and injected into the sulcus and any cracks of a thrushy frog. I clean the frog thoroughly prior to treatment and remove any loose flaps.

I have a friend who is a nurse, and she says that many physicians are refusing to use Neosporin for various reasons.... you may want to check out the recent chat on it, but this stuff does work for many people.

Zinc Oxide Ointment

Thrush creates a burning, itchy sensation in the frog, and stalled horses with thrush will stand in their urine, seeking relief from the discomfort of thrush. This creates a huge problem because urine contains ammonia, and ammonia breaks down the protein in the frog, making it even more susceptible to thrush. Slathering zinc oxide ointment (Desitin) over a thoroughly scrubbed (with soap and water) and treated frog, working the Zinc Oxide into the cracks, helps protect the frog from urine.

Other treatments that work

Athletes Foot Spray, Athletes Foot Ointment, Jock Itch Spray, Dry Cow teat treatment Ointment - many of these have been tried with some degree of success. To use, thoroughly clean the frog and apply!

Great soaks and alternative treatments

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Soaks, Oregano Oil, Tea Tree Oil - All of these have their fans too! There is a wide variety of ways to use oils topically, and ACV makes an extremely mild and effective soak for mild thrush, yeast and shedding frog problems.

Gold Bond Medicated Foot (Hoof!) Powder

I always liberally sprinkle Gold Bond (or the generic form) in hoof boots prior to putting them on my horses feet. By "liberally" I mean almost 1/4 cup! I also strongly advise that it be used for horses in rehab who wear boots for more than a few hours each day. Boots hold moisture in, and create a great environment for thrush.

Thrush creates a burning, itchy sensation in the frog, and horses with thrush will stand in their urine, seeking relief from the discomfort. This creates a huge problem because urine contains ammonia, and ammonia breaks down the protein in the frog, making it even more susceptible to thrush.

When horses with thrush have a habit of planting their feet in urine, I advise that the thrushy feet be cleaned and treated, then placed in boots with a lot of "hoof" powder. This provides relief, is often enough to break the habit of standing in urine. and will dry up superficial thrush in a week or so.

Scorched Earth Approach?

I caution clients about using most over the counter thrush preparations. Most are so harsh that they chemically peel the entire frog, leaving a scab-like covering that usually has more thrush growing under it. Many other "natural" treatments chap the horn hand or only kill superficial thrush, while the hard-core stuff is flourishing in cracks and commisure's.

Many people ask about using Hydrogen Peroxide, bleach, iodine, sugar-dyne (sugar and iodine), and unfortunately, all of these contain ingredients that destroy the thrush but destroy the frog along with it, delaying the development of a healthy frog.

Linda Cowles Hoof Care
Serving the greater SF Bay Area & Northern California
Copyright 2008 Linda Cowles
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