Can Proper Nutrition Help Prevent or Control Thrush?
Causes of Thrush
Thrush develops in the equine foot when bacterial organisms begin populating the dark and moist crevices, or sulci, of the frog. These organisms thrive and divide in oxygen poor anerobic environments that are often contaminated with moist organic material. The organisms causing thrush are opportunistic and common in the soil and environment. All horses are exposed. High humidity or wet environments predispose horses to thrush. Once the organisms begin dividing in the frog sulci, the stage is set for a progressive invasion and subsequent infection of the frog tissue.
Other Predisposing Factors to Thrush
The blocking of oxygen to the tissue of the frog and surrounding areas will predispose a horse to developing thrush. Oxygen can be blocked to the foot tissue from foot pads, boots, or the application of grease and oils to the foot. Strong astringents such as formaldehyde, copper sulfate, and chlorine are caustic to live tissue. These chemicals denature the proteins in the external layer of the tissues and thereby reduce the ability of oxygen to penetrate.
Symptoms of Thrush
The material associated with thrush is usually black in color and characteristically has a highly unpleasant odor. Infection of the frog and surrounding tissues often leads to lameness.
Nutritional Factors Related to Thrush
In white line disease the first line of defense from environmental microbes invading the hoof capsule is a ‘sound’ hoof wall structure. Dr. Susan Kempson, a noted equine nutrition researcher in the Dept of Preclinical Veterinary Sciences, Royal School of Veterinary Studies, at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, found that many of the same organisms that are linked with white line disease are organisms associated with thrush. The same nutrients necessary for a sound hoof wall are also necessary for dense frog and sole tissue. For example, calcium is required for the proper bonding of cells to each other. Zinc is important for healthy keratin, the tough pigmented material found in the outer layers of the frog and sole. Methionine is necessary to form the healthy “cross links” of collagen that add strength and elasticity to tissue. Phospholipids are needed to form healthy cell membranes that give the cells the ability to maintain proper moisture and oxygen balance, and to repel excess environmental moisture. Copper and ascorbic acid are also necessary, serving as catalysts in the formation of strong and healthy tissue. Many other nutrients also have a role in forming and maintaining healthy hoof tissues and serve to help prevent thrush.
The Role of the Immune System in the Resistance to Thrush
Nutrient Excesses may Decrease the Bodies Resistance to Thrush
1. Creating a calcium deficiency by feeding bran. Whether from wheat, rice or other grains, bran contains phytate, which is high in phosphorus. Phosphorus excess leads to calcium deficiency by blocking the absorption of calcium from the small intestinal tract. Low calcium levels weaken the connective tissues of the frog, sole, and hoof capsule.
Prevention of Thrush
Treatment of Thrush
With special thanks to -
Founder of Life Data Labs, Inc.
Developer of Farrier’s Formula®
Co-authored by H. Scott Gravlee, DVM
Equine Nutrition Consultant