Episode 305 : Treating & Preventing Thrush in Horses
Coach Jenn and Dr. Wendy explain how to treat and prevent thrush in your horses the holistic way. These methods may also be used for foot rot in cows, goats, sheep, llama and potbellied piggies.
TCVM segment starts at 42:48
Treating and Preventing Thrush
Does your horse have stinky feet ?
Of course he does. Its the nature of horses. Sometimes we can't avoid a few months of muddy wet conditions. In Florida, it is a constant battle against moisture vs skin and hooves.
When you pick your horse's feet, you remove the dirt from the lateral and central grooves of the frog. A black smelly discharge can indicate thrush. A bacterial infection with Fusobacterium necrophorum is the most common cause but it can be a mixed infection with other bacterial and fungi. Horses can be lame and sensitive to palpation of the sole and heels if the infection travels deep into the foot. Thrush can invade the central sulcus and work its way up between the heel bulbs. In the photo above, this horse has a deep thrush infection in his central sulcus that extends to the hairline.
Nerd alert : Latin translation of Fusobacterium necrophorum is the "spindly bacterium of death".
In Chinese medicine, we view infection as Heat. This is chronic infection and is black and smelly so we also view it as Damp so we classify thrush as Damp Heat of the hoof.
F.necrophorum and other thrush causing organisms tend to be anaerobes, meaning they don't like oxygen. Fungi likes to grow in moist, dark conditions.
So knowing all that, our treatment strategy will involve debriding, cleaning and balancing the hoof, reducing exposure to wet muddy conditions, and using a topical treatment to clear the Damp Heat.
A regular schedule with your farrier and good hoof hygiene is the first step. An unbalanced hoof and/or sheared heels can contribute to deep sulci and make a horse more prone to thrush infection. In cattle, small ruminants and potbellied pigs, we see a similar condition called foot rot between the toes if they don't have regular foot trims. Your farrier will balance the foot and expose any pockets. This will allow you better access to clean the hoof with a stiff brush and an antiseptic solution such as dilute iodine(weak tea color). If there are deep pockets between the heel bulbs and in the lateral sulci, Hydrogen Peroxide can help by introducing oxygen and the bubbling effect can help mechanically remove bacteria and debris.
There are thousands of thrush treatments and they all have varying levels of effectiveness and toxicity. We have an herbal formula that is safe and effective that we make here at 5 Elements for Animals called Thrush Thrasher ! Thank you Dr. Kyle for that great name.
Thrush Thrasher contains an herbal formula to clear Damp Heat along with Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oil to help increase the antibacterial and antifungal action. The herbal formula in Thrush Thrasher is based on Dr. Xie's Golden Yellow Salve and contains the following :
Bai Zhi - Angelica - In Chinese herbology, we use 3 different species of Angelica roots, Bai Zhi (A. Dahurica), Du Huo (A. Pubenscens and A.Laxiflora) and Dang Gui (A. Sinensis) and each have a different action. Bai Zhi is warm and pungent so its actions can expel Wind, drain Damp, open the orifices(vessels,sweat glands, nasal passages), reduce swelling and drain pus. It is used orally for headaches, flu and infections and topically for ulcers and wounds. The extract of Bai Zhi has shown to have antibacterial effects and increases wound healing by stimulating keratinocytes (the cells that make up the outer layer of skin).
Cang Zhu - Atractylodes Refers to 3 species, (A.lancea, chinensis, japonica). In TCVM, we also use another species of Atractylodes, Bai Zhu (A. macrocephela). They have similar actions of draining Damp, but Cang Zhu has a stronger astringent action due to its higher concentration of volatile oils to help dry out the infected tissues, while Bai Zhu has more Qi Tonifying actions. The oils of Cang Zhu root when cut appear red giving it it's common name of red atractylodes. Many of these compounds are also found in Hou Po - Magnolia bark.
Chen Pi - Tangerine peel What makes the peel of citrus fruits smell so good ? Essentials oils like Limonene and pinene. These essential oils are used routinely in cleaners because they smell great and act as a solvent remove oils and are less hazardous alternative to turpentine. Tangerine peel also contains flavonoids, which are plant pigments. Flavonoids have many functions in plants, like producing colorful flowers to attract pollinators, fixing nitrogen, acting as chemical messengers between cells like our neurotransmitters and are secreted by plant roots to combat fungal infections. Tangerine peel is warm, pungent and bitter and is a strong mover of Qi and can Dry Damp.
Da Huang - Rheum Chinese rhubarb (Rheum palmatum, Rheum tanguticum) has been used as a medicinal plant since 3000 BCE for diarrhea, constipation and infections. It has a strong astringent and antibacterial action due to its high levels of tannins, flavanoids and anthraquinones. Used topically, it can clear Damp-Heat and has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Gan Cao - Glycyrrhiza (G.uralensis, G.inflata Chinese Licorice and G.glabra English Licorice) Is sweet and can Tonify the Qi. It is used in many Chinese herbal formulas to harmonize ie. act as a catalyst for the other herbs and to distribute the herbal energy to all 12 meridians. It is used topically for abscesses and boils. One of the chemical compounds in Gan Cao is mannitol, used in conventional medicine for its osmotic effect. Recent studies on mannitol suggest it decreases antibiotic resistance in many species of bacteria commonly found in skin infections like MRSA and Pseudomonas.
Hou Po - Magnolia(Magnolia officinalis) The sweet smell of magnolias in bloom alert you to its high concentration of essential oils. Magnolol and Honokiol are the 2 major phenolic compound isolated from magnolia bark and have been studied extensively for their antibiotic and anti inflammatory effects to treat acne in humans. Eudesmol which has antifungal properties is present in smaller quantities in Hou Po and is also found in red atractylodes.
Huang Bai - Phellodendron (Phellodendron amurense) - Bark of the Amur cork tree contains compounds with antibacterial activity and has antioxidant activity comparable to Vit E. It also acts an an insect repellant which is alway useful in wound care for animals ! Herbal "SWAT"
Huang Lian - Coptis (Coptis chinesis,deltoidea,teeta) - Is the root of the Chinese goldthread plant. It is our first choice to treat Damp Heat as it is Bitter and Cold. Berberine is one of the alkaloids shown to have antibacterial activity and the isolated compound is being studied as a possible treatment for MRSA infections. Berberine is also found in Turmeric, goldenseal, California poppy and Amur cork tree.
Jiang Huang - Curcuma- Yes turmeric ! I have discussed the antibacterial and antifungal activities of turmeric with Dr. Doug English of Turmeric Life. Listen here.
Tian Hua Fen - Trichosanthes (T.kirilowii) is the root of the Chinese cucumber aka snake gourd. It helps to reduce Heat and swelling and helps wound healing.