SEEDY TOE CAN BE CURED!
by David Farmilo
Accredited Master Farrier, Oakbank SA
PH 0418 835 186
Seedy Toe is NOT a mysterious and unknown ailment. It never fails
to amaze me how Seedy Toe can be seen so consistently by horse
owners as the symbol of impending doom and disaster when it can
be cured so easily.
It also never fails to amaze me that so many farriers
just ignore Seedy Toe. Invariably the horse owner will say “Oh
the farrier said not to worry about it, but it is getting worse.”
After being a general farrier for forty-nine years,
I now specialise and deal only with problem hooves, generally
in need of reconstruction and I am consistently contacted at least
four to six months AFTER the problem should first have been identified.
Seedy Toe, sometimes called White Line Disease, is
a microscopic bug infection which enters this area of the hoof
via cracks, injuries or separation of the hoof wall and regenerates
very quickly in a non-oxygenated environment.
Seedy Toe is a problem that is common to all areas
of Australia and common to most breeds of horses. Detecting it
is often a difficult task, as sometimes there will be no external
signs visible on the hoof wall. A horse owner may only be aware
that the horse has short periods of unexplained lameness during
work. As your veterinarian or farrier will confirm, these symptoms
can mean almost anything. However, statistics show us that the
majority of these types of lameness are hoof related so we need
to look more closely and not ignore it.
If you suspect Seedy Toe, then by using a small hammer
and by tapping the hoof wall in several places, you may hear a
different or hollow sound near the toe. Removal of the shoe and
inspection of the white line will then often reveal a separation
between the hoof wall and the laminae – it may only be slight,
but needs further investigation immediately.
The problem of low heels and long can also result
in Seedy Toe. The result of this problem can be illustrated by
looking at a white footed horse where you often will see red bruising
or marks halfway up the hoof wall. Owners say “Oh that is
just where the horse kicked a wall or kicked a rock or it was
kicked by another horse etc” The marks are the hoof capsule
tearing away from the laminae underneath and it is actually bleeding.
If you push your thumbnail down on a hard surface you will see
a red spot about halfway down, and it hurts. That is because you
have applied pressure to a long thumb nail and it causes pressure
in exactly the same way underneath that horse’s hoof capsule.
The way to get rid of it is simply to reduce the flares. And with
a properly balanced hoof, you will get rid of those flares and
end up with a correct hoof / pastern angle, with considered frog
pressure most of the time, and that will also rehabilitate the
hoof. It all goes back to the simple basic principles of balancing
the hoof properly and trimming it properly before you even think
of putting shoes on it. If a horse is not trimmed and balanced
properly barefoot, then no one has any business to put shoes on
it of any kind.
Treatment of Seedy Toe requires the hoof wall to be
pared away to expose the affected areas to the air, thus causing
the infection to die. Care should be taken to remove all the unhealthy
material back to good, clean hoof wall laminae.
Do NOT be fooled by that little crack on the surface.
Explore it and you may be surprised at what lies behind it. Keep
exposing until you can identify the extent of the Seedy Toe. If
the bug is still active, this is the area that needs to be left
open to the air to kill the bug causing the problem. I have found
it is unnecessary to use disinfectant or iodine as simply exposing
it to the air is very effective.
If appropriate, reconstruct the rest of the hoof using
a synthetic hoof reconstruction material. I use Bond-N-Flex which
I have found to be the most stable and reliable of the products
available. It has the advantage of most closely resembling the
hoof wall, and once in place can be treated just like the rest
of the hoof, and will flex and grow down with the hoof without
cracking or letting go. After application, the horse is shod in
the normal manner.
During reconstruction, leave an opening around any
area affected by Seedy Toe and leave it open until any visible
redness has totally disappeared (usually seven to ten days) then
fill that area also.
Keep the horse in a dry area while the hoof is open;
if necessary move to a higher paddock or even to another property.
Don’t be tempted to use any dressings of any sort on the
Use Biotin to encourage hoof growth at this stage.
REMEMBER – Seedy Toe should never get to the
extreme stage. If it does, it has either been ignored or not noticed
in the first place – neither of these is any excuse. If
a horse is shod or trimmed every six weeks, that should be the
maximum amount of time that elapses between inspections.
If you are a horse owner and you notice a crack on
the horse’s hoof then make sure you ASK the question of
the farrier “What are you going to do about this?”
The answer “It will go away” or “I wouldn’t
worry about it” is NOT acceptable. It WONT go away, and
if he wont worry about it, then who will? Even a simple sand crack
can progress to Seedy Toe, and it can be prevented so simply by
being alert to this problem.
Most horse owners lavish feed, rugs, stabling, care
and love on their horses, yet unwittingly can commit their horses
to months of unnecessary pain with abscesses resulting from untreated
Seedy Toe. Extreme cases can result in rotation or distortion
of the pedal bone.
Left untreated, Seedy Toe WILL progress, and will
eventually destroy the complete hoof capsule.
The message I want to give is a message of hope, loud
1. Inspect the hoofs regularly
2. Watch out for possible damage
3. Catch it in the early stages
4. EXPOSE IT TO AIR and this will nip the problem in the bud.
SEEDY TOE CASE STUDY – this
is a worst case scenario -
In early March 1997, a tearful owner arrived at my workshop with
Melody, very lame in the off-fore. The owner had been advised
to put her down as the hoof had distorted beyond belief. I could
fit most of three fingers between the hoof capsule and the laminae
at the toe, and she stood completely on her sole – the hoof
wall was not bearing any weight at all.
Further inspection revealed Seedy Toe (ignored
by the farrier) had caused the hoof capsule to lift off the laminae
and affect 90% of the hoof wall. I cut away the damaged and distorted
hoof wall until finally I exposed the Seedy Toe area and then
reconstructed the missing hoof wall with Bond-N-Flex. Continued
treatment by way of shoeing and inspection of growth resulted
in a totally healthy hoof, with no sign of Seedy Toe and with
Melody being ridden by a very happy owner just in time for Christmas