Foot Rot

Information on the causes and symptoms of foot rot disease and hoof canker in horses.

foot rot disease & hoof canker in horses

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  1. What is Foot Rot?
  2. What Causes Foot Rot?
  3. Diagnosing Foot Rot
  4. Help for Foot Rot
  5. More Information on Foot Rot

What is Foot Rot?

Foot rot, also referred to as canker is an infection of the hoof which commonly affects horses, sheep and cattle. This condition causes the foot to rot away. It is caused by Fusobacterium necrophorum and Bacteroides melaninogenicus bacteria. When a cut or wound develops in the skin between the hooves, it makes it easier for bacteria to infect the foot.

What Causes Foot Rot?

Humid, wet and moist conditions act as a breeding ground for bacteria and cause the skin between the hooves to crack and become infected.

Foot rot on a horse is very painful and animals with this condition often experience extreme discomfort. If left untreated, foot rot can infect and damage the soft tissue of the foot and it may have to be amputated.

Diagnosing Foot Rot

The diagnosis of foot rot or equine foot canker is based on the symptoms presented, a thorough physical examination and a review of information on the horse’s medical history. Certain diagnostic tests such as a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of foot rot.

The common symptoms and signs of foot rot include:
  • Swelling of the skin between the claws of the hoof
  • Redness and tenderness between the toes
  • Cracked Hoof
  • Yellowish appearance
  • Foul odour
  • Lameness


Help for Foot Rot

Horses that are infected with foot rot should be isolated immediately so that they do not infect the rest of the herd or other horses. Treatment involves cleaning and disinfecting the foot, applying antibiotic ointments and administering antibacterial medications such Penicillin or Tetracycline.

Keep the horse in a dry environment to speed up the healing process. Ensure that your horse’s vaccinations are updated to protect against infection. It is also recommended that you add zinc to your horse’s diet as it promotes healthy skin and hooves.

More Information on Foot Rot

Tips to prevent foot rot

There are a number of things that horse owners can do to prevent foot root and maintain the overall health of hooves in horses and these include:

  • Feed your horse an all natural diet without preservatives, additives and colorants
  • Visit a good farrier – this is very important as he will be able to recommend the proper shoes and inspect your horse’s hooves depending on where he was stabled and he is ridden
  • Trim or shoe your horse’s hooves every six weeks by a skilled farrier
  • Make sure the horse’s feet are fitted properly with shoes and pads
  • Pick the hooves out daily using a hoof pick
  • Keep the infected horse isolated from other horses
  • Make sure that your horse is kept in a dry environment
  • Remove all foreign and sharp objects that may walk on and cause cuts and wounds in the foot
  • Add zinc supplements to the horse’s diet to improve skin and hoof health
  • Ensure that your horse’s vaccinations are updated regularly


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