What Causes Seedy Toe in Horses? | Vetericyn

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Horses are popular recreational animals, but they require a higher level of maintenance and care. Not only do you have to account for their stalls, feed, and exercise, but you also need to account for their grooming.

In taking care of your horse, monitoring their hoof health is very important. Seedy toe is one of the most common hoof concerns with horse owners. Here, let’s talk about what seedy toe is, the symptoms to look out for, how to treat it, and tips on preventing seedy toe from plaguing your horse.

What is Seedy Toe in Horses?

Seedy toe is a hoof condition that causes the horse’s hoof wall from the laminae at the white line. This creates a cavity that can be filled with dirt and other debris, which increases the risk of infection.

With seedy toe, fungus can occur through the white line because of excessive hoof growth, horseshoe nails, or subclinical laminitis. Laminitis is the inflammation of the laminar corium in the hoof, which can cause a breakdown of the hoof itself.

What Causes Seedy Toe in Horses?

Unfortunately, seedy toe is all too common in horses and there are a number of things that can contribute to it.

The first is chronic laminitis. As mentioned, laminitis affects the hoof and surrounding bone. If there is an infection, seedy toe can often result as a secondary complication. Symptoms of early-stage laminitis include:

  • Reluctance to move as much
  • Blood visible on the white line or hoof wall
  • Elevated pulse
  • Cantering instead of trotting
  • An off-balance gait
  • Limping on hard terrain

Other causes of seedy toe in horses include long toe/low heel conformation, which can cause hoof wall separation or poor front to back balance. Seedy toe is often found in conjunction with a club foot or a poor quality hoof horn.

Most seedy toe cases are caused by a fungal or bacterial infection, which are common hoof contaminants. This causes weakened keratin, resulting in a crumbling or flaking off of the hoof.

How to Treat Seedy Toe

Luckily, when caught early, seedy toe can be treated effectively. Here are the steps to take if your horse is suffering from the condition.

  1. First, you need to have your horse’s hooves trimmed to get rid of the damaged, crumbly hoof wall. Remember, even if the infection looks small, it can go much deeper into the hoof. It’s best to hire a competent hoof care specialist for this task. You want to make sure you remove as much of the infected part as possible.
  2. Next, use a hoof care product to treat the area.
  3. You can also use an antimicrobial agent to spray the area regularly in between soakings.
  4. Remember to keep your horse’s stall clean and dry, to help prevent seedy toe from reoccurring.

The goal of this treatment is to remove all the infected areas of the hoof and encourage new, healthy growth. A horse’s hooves grow slowly (similar to our hair or fingernails), but using a high-quality healing agent can help the process.

Tips on Preventing Seedy Toe

One of the best ways to prevent seedy toe in horses is to regularly clean and examine your horse’s hooves. Look for any cavities along the white line and at the toe. In addition, make sure to exercise your horse regularly and ensure that their stall is clean and dry. The bacteria and fungi that can cause seedy toe thrive on damp, dark environments so keeping the stable clean and sanitary can help prevent this common condition.

In addition, you should have your horse’s hooves trimmed regularly by a competent farrier who may suggest the need to shoe your horse for extra protection, comfort, or to help re-establish soundness. Keep your horse’s hooves clean from any debris regularly.

In most cases of seedy toe, it can be treated with proper products and care, especially when you catch it early. To properly treat seedy toe, make sure to address the underlying condition, such as laminitis, if there is one. This will help you get to the root of the problem. Regular hoof trimming and shoeing is key, as well as proper hoof care.

Story Provided by Vetericyn

Reviewed by Dan Richardson, Veterinarian

Dan Richardson has been a practicing veterinarian for over 10 years. He specializes in surgery and orthopedics. Dan is originally from rural western Nevada and attended the University of Idaho for undergraduate study and Oregon State University for Veterinary School. The Richardson Family enjoys camping and spending time on the water fishing, paddle boarding, or digging their feet in the sand somewhere warm.

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