Horse ownership can be rewarding, but can also require a special level of care that other domesticated animals might not require. They have strict feeding, exercise, and grooming needs, and when these aren’t taken care of, horse owners run the risk of something going wrong.
One of the most common conditions in horses is called white line disease. Let’s learn more about what white line disease is, how to treat it, and tips to prevent white line disease from plaguing your horse.
What is White Line Disease in Horses?
According to Life Data Labs, white line disease is a “hoof wall invasion of common organisms in the environment.” White line disease affects the medial, or middle, of the hoof wall and can be caused by invading or opportunistic fungus and bacteria (pathogens). While nearly any horse can get white line disease, the fungi is often caused by mechanical, environmental, physiological, or nutritional issues. It can also be caused by trauma to the healthy hoof tissue.
How do Horses Get White Line Disease?
As mentioned, there are many reasons why a horse’s hoof might be susceptible to white line disease. Here are a few:
TRAUMA TO THE HOOF
Trauma to the hoof tissue can cause bruising or bleeding, which can lead to broken blood vessels. These bruises are a feeding ground for harmful microbes, like those that can lead to white line disease.
A hoof wall that’s full of crevices, nail holes, or hoof cracks can allow harmful organisms to gain access to the hoof wall. In addition, moist environments can exacerbate this hoof wall separation problem and lead to bacterial and fungal growth.
A DIET HIGH IN BRAN
Bran is a high-fiber supplement that often contains phytates, which block the absorption of calcium. Without calcium, the affected hoof wall can deteriorate and become weak and crumbly. Calcium serves as a “glue” for cellular adhesion, which leads to healthy hooves. Without adequate calcium levels, you run the risk of white line disease.
VITAMIN A DEFICIENCY
Lastly, both a deficiency and an excess of Vitamin A can result in weak or unhealthy hooves, which puts the affected area at risk of a microbial invasion.
Can You Treat White Line Disease in Horses?
Luckily, you can treat white line disease in horses if it’s caught early. The most common symptoms of the fungal infection include:
- Thickening of the white line on the solar surface of the affected hoof
- Abnormal percussion in areas of the hoof walls
- The outer hoof wall is the concave opposite of the affected areas
- Hoof capsule bulges above the affected areas
- Lameness in advanced stages of the fungal infection
When treating white line disease in horses, first consider the potential source and address that. For example, proper nutrition and hoof hygiene are key. Always examine your horse’s hooves for anything out of the ordinary.
In addition, topical products that jumpstart healing and prevent infection are also key. These antimicrobial products can help prevent hoof cracks and other trauma. Look for all-natural products that won’t cause harm to you or your horse. For example, our hoof care and hoof soak products are perfect for the ongoing maintenance of your horse’s hooves.
Tips to Prevent White Line Disease
Now that we understand what white line disease is and how it can be treated in horses, let’s look at some tips to hopefully prevent the condition in the first place:
- Keep your horse’s hooves well-trimmed and balanced with horse hoof cleaning. Trimming their hooves regularly will help prevent abscesses in horses or tearing or cracking.
- Try to exercise your horse enough. White line disease is more common in stalled horses, or show horses who might not get enough pasture time.
- White line disease can often be a secondary complication to something else going on in the hoof. Make sure to examine your horse’s hooves regularly to avoid old nail tracks, areas of hoof wall separation, and any other concerns.
- Practice proper hoof care. This includes picking your horse’s feet daily.
- In overly wet conditions, take even more care of your horse and their hoof health by providing a clean, dry environment. Not only will this hoof care help prevent white line disease, but it will also help prevent other nasty conditions such as rain rot or a horse with thrush.
Here at Vetericyn, we believe it’s important that we take care of our equine friends by treating their skin and hooves with proper care. Not only do horses need adequate exercise, a healthy diet, and regular grooming, but they also need hoof capsule maintenance to keep them healthy and active. By regularly monitoring your horse’s hooves, spotting conditions early, and treating them with the right products, you can ensure that you keep your horse’s hooves in tip-top shape.
Reviewed by Dan Richardson, Veterinarian
Dan Richardson has been a practicing veterinarian for over 10 years. He specializes in surgery and orthopedics. Dan is originally from rural western Nevada and attended the University of Idaho for undergraduate study and Oregon State University for Veterinary School. The Richardson Family enjoys camping and spending time on the water fishing, paddle boarding, or digging their feet in the sand somewhere warm.