A seedy toe can be a frustrating condition for a horse. It occurs in the area of the hoof wall where a break in the white line allows pathogens into the hoof capsule, creating a pocket of infection which is often accompanied by a swollen coronary band and fetlock. The resulting abscess causes intense pain and lameness for the horse. These are very serious conditions that, if left untreated, can lead to permanent damage in the hoof capsule.
Traditionally, treatment for seedy toe or white line disease involves the use of poultices and a paring knife to remove the infected tissue from the sole and heel of the foot. This is an attempt to prevent the formation of a subsolar abscess, which can be quite painful and cause the horse to halt or even lame out. This method is effective, but it also risks opening routes for further bacterial infection and can take a long time for the hoof to recover.
Another important step in the treatment of a seedy toe or white line problem is the regular trimming and monitoring by an experienced farrier. A knowledgeable farrier can often recognize seedy toe early, noticing the appearance of a widened area in the white line where the hoof wall meets the sole of the foot.
If the condition is caught early, a farrier may be able to resect the affected area of the hoof and expose it to oxygen to help kill off any remaining bacterial colonies. The damaged areas of the hoof wall can then be regenerated with a new layer of healthy keratin, and the pocket of infection and pressure will subside.
A veterinarian should be consulted for any case of seedy toe that is severe or not responding to the above measures. X-rays of the hoof can help determine the extent of the damage to the hoof wall and how deep the pockets of infection go.
While we may try to prevent seedsy toe by addressing conformation issues such as a long toe and low heel, we cannot control environmental factors that can contribute to the condition. It is always best to be proactive and work closely with your farrier and veterinarian to detect any breach of hoof wall integrity as soon as it appears, especially in damp environments. This will help to minimize long-term damage to the hoof capsule. Feeling the digital pulse is another tool that can help you identify abnormalities in the hoof, including thrush and other infections, as these often have a distinctive foul smell. Be sure to learn how to feel this pulse and don’t be afraid to ask a farrier or veterinarian for help! They want your horse to be healthy and happy as much as you do.