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 ‘the farrier said not to worry about it, but it is getting worse’. 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 control Seedy Toe 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 hoof.
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 of Seedy Toe 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 and clear.
- Inspect the hoofs regularly
- Watch out for possible damage
- Catch it in the early stages
- 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 1997.