Canker versus thrush
Canker and thrush prevail in warm, wet, and muddy conditions -
just the kind of conditions we know all too well in the Southeast.
If you notice a foul odor coming from your horse's hoof, most likely your horse is dealing with thrush. Thrush is very common and easy for seasoned horse owners to spot. You will notice the odor and easily recognize the black, tar-like bacteria. Mild cases of thrush can be treated by the horse owner or farrier. However, advanced cases and those situations where pain or lameness is present warrant the consultation of a veterinarian.
Canker is much less common and much more challenging to treat. The basic distinguishing factor of canker is overgrowths - horn producing tissues towards the back of the frog. In its early stages, canker can easily be mistaken for thrush. However, as it further develops, the appearance of the white discharge resembling cottage cheese is unmistakable.
Canker destroys hoof tissue, so infected horses may try to keep weight off of their heels. Left untreated, canker will spread to the frog, bars, sole and hoof wall.
How is canker treated?
In order to be treated, a veterinarian must resect the infected portions of the hoof. The infected tissue will easily loosen and bleed. This treatment is performed with the horse standing while under a mild sedation. After care of the infected area is crucial. A strict, daily antiseptic regimen is necessary to prevent the bacteria from redeveloping.