White Line Disease in Horses
White Line Disease Treatment For Horses, Donkeys & Mules
What is White Line Disease?
It's a hoof infection caused by fungi, bacteria, or a combination of both that destroy tissue connection within the hoof (it's also called Seedy Toe). These organisms are thought to enter the hoof via old nail holes, cracks, and other weak points. Once inside, they slowly erode the layers of connective tissue (laminae) that make up a healthy hoof and hold the coffin bone in place. The coffin bone is the largest bone in a horse’s hoof and helps shape the hoof wall. This destruction, by the white line disease organisms, leads to cavities and weaknesses within the hoof. Moreover, if left unchecked, the hoof slowly disintegrates from the inside out and requires critical, professional care to fix it. As an example, in our photograph, this horse has clubby, upright hoof so the laminae (internal hoof layers) inside the hoof were constantly stretched to the max thus creating interior hoof weakness and ultimately, serious white line disease.
Why Is It Called ‘White Line Disease’?
The disease gets its name from the fact that the only visible evidence is a powdery, crumbly, white residue that can be seen when one trims the hoof. This residue is made of the hoof’s disintegrating white line area. If you see this residue, take swift action to get it diagnosed by your farrier or vet to prevent worsening internal separation of the interior hoof laminae.
But here’s the tough part--you can't actually see the infection. Even though the disease enters from the outside, it doesn’t spread to the hoof’s exterior, it only attacks the vital internal hoof tissue. The pathogens that make up White Line Disease are anaerobic, meaning they wouldn’t be able to tolerate being exposed to oxygen. That makes the interior of a horse hoof the perfect place for them to thrive without interruption. Truth be told, a more accurate name for this hoof infection is "hoof wall separation" since the infection separates the white line hoof tissue from the interior hoof laminae.
Luckily, this disease isn’t super fast-acting. It’s just a sneaky infection that has the tendency to be easily overlooked. But, when caught in early stages, White Line Disease is able to be treated quickly and easily. As with so many infections, early detection is key to successful and complication-free treatment!
What Are Some Traditional Ways to Treat White Line Disease?
Traditional treatments of White Line Disease have to begin with an X-ray of the affected hoof. This is to both assess the damage so far and get a sense of how large the infection is. This step must not be skipped, as there is no visual cues you can rely on to accurately assess the infection’s severity. i.e. How far upwards, inside the hoof, has the damage traveled? And along with the damage, there goes the integrity of the hoof! No hoof, no horse!
In minor cases, conventional procedures call for the infection to be first dug out using a small pick, hoof nippers, a knife, or a Dremel-type tool and then treated with a chemical. More advanced cases might require the removal of the diseased tissue (this means the HOOF tissue) to expose the disease’s anaerobic pathogens to oxygen that spells their demise.
Some success has been achieved with an easier and less invasive process such as drilling access holes at the top of the infection site. A time-honored practice has been, in more complicated cases, to remove areas of the hoof wall. However, be warned: removing large areas of the hoof wall will compromise hoof stability and likely result in your horse needing a special custom shoe. While this doesn’t sound particularly frightening, the real danger is presented if your horse loses this shoe. Find Banixx near you or buy online.
The above pictures were provided to us by Esco Buff Professor Farrier Service, LLC. This hoof was x-rayed to ascertain the extent of damage caused by the pernicious organisms known as white line disease. The hoof wall has to be debrided/removed to expose these destructive invaders to oxygen which kills them. Note, these invaders are anaerobic in nature which means they function WITHOUT oxygen and, in fact, die when exposed to it. These pictures represent the treatment of white line disease in action. The second picture shows a hoof prepped and ready for a supportive shoe. This may need to be a custom shoe built with extra needed support for your horse, due to the obvious visual lack of hoof wall.
What’s the Best Way to Treat White Line Disease?
A common issue with the traditional method of trimming away affected hoof tissue is that it simply isn’t comprehensive enough. If even the littlest smidge of white line disease infection is left, it will multiply and you’ll be back to square one.
Now, most veterinarians & farriers agree that the most effective treatment for White Line Disease follows a two-step process: First, take a good hoof x-ray. Then you can form a game-plan to fight the infection, because it will reveal the extent of the infection. You can’t eyeball it. Second: Resect the affected area of the hoof (either by drilling holes or hoof removal) to expose the offending organisms to oxygen and treat with Banixx. To apply Banixx the hoof must be awash in the solution. You can the treatment via a medicine boot or via a homemade device, possessing an entry point where you can re-apply Banixx. A clean, used, saline IV bag (obtained from your Vet) may serve well for this purpose if a medicine boot is not available.
Banixx has even proven to be effective at eradicating stubborn, long-afflicting White Line Disease thanks to its unique pH level which completely inhibits the growth of any fungi or bacteria. Hence, in summary, with Banixx, you change the pH of the hoof environment to arrest infection but render no damage to healthy hoof tissue. This method also avoids accidentally exposing your horse to potentially harmful chemicals such as copper sulfate, formaldehyde, or certain chemicals found in iodine-based treatments. Besides being safe for your horse, it’s also safe for the environment and for you to apply.
How Do I Prevent White Line Disease?
Although White Line Disease may be a common problem, do not disregard it as a “minor disease”. If allowed to progress, your horse may require extensive hoof repair, treatment, and rest - that means no riding, potentially for months and plenty of expenses. So be sure to keep your horse’s feet current with a qualified farrier; it’s a much more cost-effective solution!
It’s also good to remember what conditions White Line Disease loves to grow in: mostly warm, moist climates, although it’s not uncommon for horses living in dry climates to suffer from it. It can affect both shod and unshod feet, and it can affect one hoof as easily as it can affect multiple. Even horses being reared under the most sanitary conditions can succumb to it!
With this in mind, remember that regular hoof care and good hygiene are your best defense against White Line Disease. Moreover, it's vital to note that even with an "abnormal" hoof confirmation, a defensive, well-thought out trim job goes a long way to avoiding this disease. Additionally, knowing what to look for, such as the appearance of crumbly, white granules in the area where the firm white line used to be or a mysterious, unexplained lameness that suddenly develops, can serve as a signal to investigate more deeply. And this could lead to early detection that would greatly simplify your life!
In summary: Any hoof cavities that you may discover should be quickly disinfected with a high-quality antifungal/antibacterial product such as Banixx and a call made to your farrier and possibly also your Vet.
One Horse’s Success Story Battling White Line Disease with Banixx
Out of nowhere, my perfectly-sound 16-year-old competition horse began to act slightly lame. He wasn’t bobbing-head lame, but something was definitely...off. We checked all the usual suspects - hocks, stifle, knees - and they all seemed fine. Stumped, we decided to check his feet just to be on the safe side.
Thank goodness we did! As we removed his shoes, we were faced with copious amounts of white-colored, powdery granules where we should have been able to see solid, firm, white-line tissue. It appeared to us that our horse had contracted the disease through his mal-formed clubby foot. This is not an uncommon occurrence. White line disease is an opportunistic disease. A clubby foot results in laminae being stretched to the max every time a horse’s hoof makes contact with the ground. So when an invasive organism enters the interior of this weakened hoof, it’s easy for it to take up residence. Once inside, it wreaks widespread havoc that lease to subsequent destruction within the laminae. No foot, no horse!
The farrier then inserted a shoeing nail into our horse’s white line area and was met with no resistance...just a deeper, seemingly-unending cavity. The nail apparently disappeared inside our horse’s foot! The cavity caused by this infection was clearly very large already. An x-ray revealed that the cavity extended clear up to his coronary band…this was a major event!
For five long years, our horse went through unsuccessful resection (removing large amounts of hoof wall tissue) after unsuccessful resection. Until, finally, our nightmare of White Line Disease came to an end when we began incorporating Banixx into his treatment plan.
After our (final) resection of the affected area, we administered Banixx via a medicine boot twice a day for one hour, for four to five days so that his hoof was awash in Banixx. We wrapped the hoof, as best we could, with protective gauze and duct tape to keep it as clean and dry as possible in between soakings. Every time his hoof was trimmed, we went thru this process. Banixx’s unique pH composition worked as an antifungal/antibacterial agent to completely stop further development of the disease. He was initially shod with a custom, specialty shoe since most of his hoof support had been removed. This was vital to his soundness, hoof support and future use. Once the hoof produced enough solid growth to safely retain a shoe, he was shod with a regular shoe.
Now, seven years later, we haven’t dealt with a recurrence since! And yes - my horse did return to active work! Find Banixx near you or buy online.
Banixx has a proven reputation as the go-to product for all fungal and bacterial horse, donkey and mule ailments; including scratches, rain rot, rashes, cuts & wounds, fungus issues, sweet-itch, mud fever and hoof diseases such as white line and thrush.
This is because consistency is key in treating any infection and Banixx is so straightforward to use - it makes it much easier to “stick with the treatment program”. Thus, excellent results in curing white line disease are the norm.
Banixx carries the following benefits:
- No nose-crinkling chemical scents or sting to frighten your horse
- Clinically tested to be safe around eyes
- No steroids and no antibiotics are used in the production process
- Minimum shelf life of three years, viable even after freezing or sun/heat exposure
- Fast-acting and affordable
Consider this: Just contrast the size and weight of a horse relative to the size of his hoof, and how fast a horse can go or how high they can jump; it’s a complete wonder of nature that much is supported by so little!! Find Banixx near you or buy online.
Here are two useful links about White Line Disease in hooves from the American Farriers Journal: