If you have been in the horse community for any amount of time, you have probably heard someone reference white line disease. To learn about white line disease in horses, it is important to understand the basic anatomy of the hoof. A horse’s hoof can be looked at in layers- the outer hoof wall, hoof horn, and the laminae. You can learn more about hoof anatomy here. The white line is the light area between the hoof wall and where it joins the sole. Essentially, damage to this area makes it susceptible to fungal or bacterial invasions that will ultimately separate the hoof wall layers.
What is White Line Disease in Horses Caused By?
White line disease is something that typically affects horses that have a weakened hoof wall- it is considered opportunistic, and frequently a “perfect storm” scenario. The white line “widens”, which is the separation of the sole and hoof wall. Once widened, bacteria or fungi can easily be introduced and cause a progressive infection that will work its way up to the coronary band.
The most common causes of white line disease in horses are poor hoof structure or hoof imbalances. These problems can be natural or “man-made”, but any damage will create susceptibility. Other hoof issues that create a “stretching” of the white line or other structural problems can also lead to white line disease. Many horses are first diagnosed by a farrier during a trim, long before signs of lameness appear to the owner. When this infection reaches the coronary band, it can create a light powder that will be noticed during a trim or shoe reset.
White Line Disease Treatment
Treatment of white line disease is greatly dependent upon the severity and progression. If caught early enough, white line disease is fairly easy to manage. Horses may not even need time off if there is no severe damage to the hoof wall.
There are many products on the market to treat white line disease, such as CleanTrax. Your farrier will likely have a preferred product recommendation. Hooves are also soaked in a chlorine-based solution 1-2 times per week.
But regardless of severity, an infection should be treated immediately. Frequent trims will help with proper growth and monitoring. Some farriers will also recommend owners give a hoof supplement that contains biotin and amino acids. Good blood circulation and growth will assist in treatment.
Although white line disease is an opportunistic problem, there are steps you can take to help prevent tearing or “stretching” of the hoof wall.
If it is not a complication from another hoof problem, proper hygiene and regular trimming are the best ways to combat white line disease. Some experts believe that extreme weather can also impact a hoof’s susceptibility to fungi.
What to Remember
Early recognition is key in easily treating white line disease. However, successful treatment takes time as the hoof continues to grow and replace damaged areas. If you think your horse may have white line disease, it is important to consult your veterinarian or farrier for prompt treatment action.
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