Treating Equine Hoof Rot

equine thrush

In horses, hoof rot is known as thrush. It’s a term that encompasses fungal and bacterial infections in the hoof, and there are a number of bacteria and fungi that can contribute to the condition. Thrush specifically refers to an infection in the grooves of the frog in the horse’s foot. 

Although it’s an unsightly and often smelly condition, it’s one that can be easily treated. However, if left untreated, it can cause serious damage in the long run, destroying the sensitive tissue deeper in the foot.  

Symptoms of equine hoof rot

There are a number of signs to be on the lookout for:

  • Dark or black discharge, sometimes with the presence of pus
  • Foul odour
  • Soft or irregularly shaped frog
  • Swelling of the lower leg
  • Lameness or discomfort
  • Pain or tenderness around the frog 
  • Increased body temperature 
  • Lack of appetite


The bacteria that often causes thrush is found in dirty and moist conditions. In this case, that would be your horse’s soiled, contaminated bedding or muddy pastures. The bacteria that causes the infection is often anaerobic bacteria, meaning it doesn’t thrive in oxygen-rich air. This bacterium thrives in damp, dark crevices like the ones in hoof grooves. This is especially true if your horse spends prolonged periods of time on damp or wet surfaces. 

Horses that do not receive enough exercise are also at risk. Exercise promotes blood circulation, which helps to keep the hoof healthy. 

If your horse does not have a regular farrier schedule, it may also have an increased risk. A farrier will help to keep the hoof conformation in good order, while removing the dead frog and exposing the frog and sole to air, killing off the bacteria lurking there. Likewise, incorrectly shod horses may experience a damaged frog and a secondary infection.


The first step to treating the affected horse is moving it to a clean environment. Use a hoof pick to remove the debris from your horse’s hooves. Follow this up with warm water and an antiseptic solution like VetMed Wound and Skin Care to clean the frog and leave it to dry.

In severe cases, contact a veterinarian or farrier to carry out treatment; all dead and damaged tissue will need to be carefully removed.

Apply an antimicrobial solution or spray once the healthy tissue is reached. Bandaging may be necessary if the hoof has been trimmed extensively.

Provide a clean, dry environment for the horse and keep a close eye on the state of the hoof.

Remember that the thrush will only clear up if the hoof is kept clean and well tended to. A damaged or weak frog is susceptible to infection, so make sure that your horse’s hooves are carefully protected. We recommend VetMed Wound and Skin spray due to it’s accelerated wound healing capabilities, along with its antimicrobial action.

Continue treating the hoof until the infection is cleared up and the frog has healed. Be sure to contact your farrier or veterinarian if you have any queries or concerns.


As with many conditions, prevention is better than cure. 

  • Provide a clean and dry environment as much as possible. Clean stalls of soiled and wet bedding daily and remove manure from paddocks as much as possible.
  • Keep your horse exercised to keep optimal blood circulation to the foot.
  • Ensure that a reputable farrier sees your horse regularly. Similarly, ensure your horse is correctly trimmed and shod to uphold hoof conformation. 
  • Pick the hoof thoroughly on a daily basis. Be sure to pay attention to the grooves and crevices in the foot, and expose the frog to air by removing all dirt and debris. This is as much to discourage bacterial growth as it is to check for signs of hoof rot. Be careful to overuse the hoof pick as it can cause injuries in the frog where infection can take hold.
  • Even if you take all the necessary precautions, there is a chance your horse will still develop hoof rot. In this instance, acting quickly to treat and prevent the further spread of the infection is important.

You can learn more about greasy heel, seedy toe, the importance of hoof care, and more in the article section of our blog.