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White Line Disease: An Infection of Opportunity

If white line on the equine hoof gets damaged, it becomes an entry point for anaerobic fungi and bacteria, which can lead to separation of the hoof wall.

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By: Nicole Kitchener |

You’re picking your horse’s hoof and notice a spot near his toe where the pick goes a little deeper than it should. There’s also a wee crack on the outside of the hoof. Digging in slightly, you find crumbly, greyish-black, powdery stuff. This all could indicate white line disease, a common infection, which, if left to fester, can create a lot of trouble in the internal structures of the hoof. The white line is the pale area on the underside of the hoof where the outside wall meets the sole. If damaged, it becomes an entry point for anaerobic (non-oxygen-loving) fungi and bacteria, which get trapped and thrive in the damp, dark inner hoof. Their presence, combined with certain mechanical factors, causes progressive separation of the hoof wall. “It’s really an infection of opportunity,” said B.C. journeyman farrier Roger Sutcliffe. “But we’re not really 100 per cent sure what creates…

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