Q: Any remedies for the
"white line disease"? We raise TB/Draft crosses and some of these guys
seem more susceptible. Tried bleach, iodine, now using ThrushBuster. Our farrier
likes to dig it all out, the other day totally laming our purebred Belgian mare
for three weeks. Needless to say, he won't be working on her again. Thanks.
A: Your question was brief but
it did make my eyebrows raise. White line disease. The first thing we have to do
is to determine whether we do in fact have white line disease. If you have a
wall separation and you clean it out and put a shoe over it or use acrylics to
cover it up, and you come back in 6 weeks time and the fissure is enlarged, then
you probably do have white line disease. To be positive requires a biopsy which
may take 90 days and a couple hundred dollars, but a qualified farrier
will normally make a decision based on previous experience and act upon it.
You said your farrier likes to dig things out. If your farrier dug it out by
removing the wall and all diseased and foreign matter, thereby exposing the
unhealthy area to sunlight and fresh air, he did exactly what he should have
done. Digging it out from below, merely creating a cavity, does absolutely no
good because the anaerobic organisms will flourish and more foreign matter will
pack up into the cavity, making any horse lame.
If your farrier "dug it out" right, you better give him a raise
instead of chastising him. In that case your farrier did exactly what he should
have done. I hope that he has a computer and reads my column because he probably
won't get any other pats on the back over this incident other than the one I
give him. I have to say the equine world should be grateful that there are
farriers like him out there that have the knowledge, experience and guts to do
what is right. Three cheers to you, farrier, whoever you are.
Any time I talk to veterinarians about white line disease, they shrug their
shoulders. They don't know. I read virtually all books, magazines, and sites on
the internet dealing with hoof care, and I can tell you that there is little to
no information on white line disease. The "experts" on the subject are
the working farriers. My knowledge of white line disease comes from 2 sources:
working farriers and my own experience.
If I suspect white line disease, I dig it out and cut it out, using half-round
nippers, knives, scalpels, Dremel tool, and a rasp. This is called a HOOF
WALL RESECTION. All traces of the invading organism must be removed and
the diseased hoof must be opened to fresh air and sunlight and protected from
dirt, manure, mud, rocks and bumps and bangs. Topical medications may help. If
you are lucky, new disease-free healthy hoof will grow down.
If it appears that a large portion of the hoof is involved I will call in a good
veterinarian to take radiographs (x-rays) and for consultation before beginning
Bleach and the things that you have tried are definitely not going to cure white
line disease. There are a host of medications on the market making extravagant
claims about their effectiveness on white line disease. I have tried them all
and no one product has led me to believe that it is the magic cure. What will
help on one horse won't work at all on another. What will work on one horse at
the onset might not work clear through to the end. They only work at all in
conjunction with opening up the diseased area to air and removing all traces of
the invading organism.
When your farrier suspects white line disease, have him cut it out and remove
the wall in that area while it is just getting started. If this is done early on
there will just be a little place in the foot missing. Most horse owners will
put the minor resection off and keep trying magical medications until half or
two thirds of the foot is involved. At this point the resection is a major job
both in expense to you and trauma to the horse. Try to get up the courage to let
your farrier work on it while it is a small problem.
Most horses will not show clinical lameness with white line disease even as it
becomes quite advanced because white line disease does not attack the sensitive
tissues. However, it is just a matter of time before the wall separation becomes
so extreme that the horse will not be supported by his hoof and will no longer
be usable. To say there is no problem because he is not lame is the same as
saying that there is no problem when your dentist finds a cavity before it hurts
or the doctor finds cancer before it is painful. You may be in pain for a while
after the filling is put in or after the cancer surgery, but if all goes well
there will be no more problem other than this short-term pain.
In the same way a horse will probably not be lame until after the hoof wall
resection, but it is the beginning of healing. The lameness should be short
lived and the healing will preserve the horse's usefulness, and thus his life in
The American Blacksmith