White Line Disease

I am looking at a horse to buy that has white line disease. He was diagnosed 4 yrs ago. They have kept pads on him and kept him in a dry place. If I purchased him I would keep him in a paddock outside year around. Would this be safe for him? How easy can you keep white line in check? Is it worth it to buy him? LO, Utah

Dear LO,

Well, you’ll never catch me telling someone to buy or not buy a horse (too much liability!) but I will say that, unless this was a really severe case of white line disease that involved removal of a large portion of the horse’s hoof wall, the presence of white line disease wouldn’t rank too high on a pre-purchase examination for me. It would make me look more closely though at the horse’s conformation, overall hoof quality, and trimming/shoeing history.

Experts used to think that white line disease was caused by a dirty environment, but that didn’t explain why one horse on a pristine farm would have the condition and another wouldn’t. Or why one horse on a filthy farm would have the condition and another wouldn’t. Or why one horse would have it in only one foot. Now veterinarians and farriers believe this widening or separation of the white line, the junction between the hoof wall and the sole, may be due more to mechanical factors that allow an infection than an infection starting the whole process. That is, long toes, underrun heels, a club foot and various other hoof imbalances can stress this junction, providing a weak spot for the bacteria and fungi that normally live in the environment to enter the hoof and begin destroying tissue.

I encourage you to go to Dr. Steve O’Grady’s website www.equipodiatry.com and read up on white line disease. If you do decide to go ahead and purchase this horse, you’ll want to work with your veterinarian and farrier to discover why he is prone to the condition and if there any changes that can be made to reduce his risk.

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Skin, Coat & Hooves

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