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Hoof Abscesses and White Line Disease


My 12 year old mare has had 3 abscesses of the hoof in the last year. The vet noted on her most recent episode that “she has lots of separation of the white line of all 4 feet and I feel this is where the abscesses are coming from”. He said this has the potential to be a chronic condition but not to worry myself too much at this point. He suggested short rounded trims and a hoof supplement. He said with good foot care and time (8 – 12 month’s) the hoof wall should grow back and be ok. Is this sound advice or is there something else that would benefit and encourage hoof growth. She has been an incredibly sound horse up until this last year. Any suggestions or insights would be appreciated.
– Patricia in Indiana

We are pleased to have a guest veterinarian provide an answer today. Dr. Mark Baus of Grand Prix Equine, and current President-elect of the North East Association of Equine Practitioners, was kind enough to answer this challenging entry for us:

Dear Patricia,

Since the separation of the white line is occurring in all four feet, I would guess that the abscesses have also occurred in more than one foot. Your veterinarian’s advice to care for this frustrating problem is certainly quite sound. I am concerned about two related possibilities that potentially explain the separation and the recurrent abscesses. I am concerned that your mare may have Equine Cushing’s Syndrome and I would want to know if laminitis has subsequently occurred.

To arrive at a more definitive diagnosis, I would ask your veterinarian to perform two diagnostic procedures. Firstly I would ask for blood tests to determine your mare’s Cushing’s status. Bear in mind that these tests are not as accurate when performed in late summer through the fall of the year. Secondly, I would ask your veterinarian if it would be appropriate to take radiographs to determine the true amount of hoof wall separation and whether laminitis has caused that separation.

Even if both Equine Cushing’s Syndrome and laminitis have occurred, the signs may well be managed by paying close attention to hoof care and diet along with the supplements your veterinarian has recommended. With the additional information, you will be able to more confidently manage your mare’s long term health and soundness.

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+

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Posted in Ask the Vet, Diseases and Conditions, Skin, Coat & Hooves

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5 comments on “Hoof Abscesses and White Line Disease
  1. Holly says:

    My 19 Year old gelding has had a crack on the rear right foot for a couple years now. Our first farrier just kept trimming it and saying he needed to grow a new hoof. It never improved. We went to a second farrier who used a dremmel tool to cut out the dead tissue and noticed that not only did he have white line disease, but he had it in all 4 feet and the cracked one was actually the better of the two rear feet. He’s been working on his feet since last July along with me giving him hoof supplements and putting iodine/glycerin mixture on the coronets to grow his feet out. So far, the front left and rear left(not the cracked one) are now white line disease free. The farrier has since dremmeled twice more on the cracked foot to open the affected area and has full bar shoes on to help the crack from splitting more. He still shows very little improvement with the cracked foot. What else can I do?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Holly – We empathize with how frustrating white line disease can be and recommend you speak with both your farrier and veterinarian about “upping” the support from your horse’s hoof supplement. Especially during this repair and rebuilding phase, he may need more aggressive nutritional support with “ultra” formulas and loading doses.

  2. Debbie matthews says:

    We bought a miniature horse and its hooves are white about half the way up. The third day it went lame on back right.

  3. Brenda says:

    My sister is having a problem with her horse. It seems to have an infection in his hoof and he can not get up due to the fact that it is in his front leg. They want her to take him 3 hours away to a vet which she cannot afford and even if she could pay the walk in fee she would not be able to get him in a trailer. Is there something that can be done otherwise. He is in pain and she is quite devastated. Any advice would be appreciated. On a side note, she contacted the only ferrier in her town and two days after an antibiotic shot he was unable to walk.

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