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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 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 F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Skin, Coat & Hooves

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