Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Holistic Horse: Bertie's White Line Disease - part 1

When I bought Bertie, it was on a bit of a whim. I had bought a simply stellar horse from the seller the previous year, so I watched her facebook page for other diamonds-in-the-rough. She gets horses in from all over the place, and often puts a bit of shine on them and finds them new homes. Bertie was one of these horses. I saw him pop up in some photos on her page and immediately liked what I saw. His conformation looked like it could pack one helluva punch, once he matured. When I brought him home I saw he was all that I'd hoped and more, as he has the brain to match his body.

A few weeks after bringing him home, however, he came up slightly off. At first we thought he looked to be favoring a front hoof, but then it looked like both, and then neither... and then both. I soaked his hooves and poulticed them for abscesses, to no avail. Then one evening I noticed a bit of flaking tissue along his white line. As I scraped away, I realized that the tissue had been disguising a deep chasm in his white line. The white line is the soft connective tissue between the horse's hoof wall and the rest of his hoof. By the time I had dug it out, I was more than an inch deep and still not to the end of it. My heart sank, and my mind raced instantly to those horrible photos of hoof resections that I had seen online.

Bertie has White Line Disease, or WLD. WLD is an anaerobic (prefers lack of oxygen) infection in the white line that slowly creeps its way up and up, under the hoof wall. From what I have read about WLD studies, current science believes that horses must be predisposed to WLD in order to contract it. In many cases this has been linked to copper and zinc deficiencies which aid in growth of elastic tissues. When the elasticity of the white line is compromised, it becomes somewhat porous, allowing bacterial and fungal infection to enter. This infection eats away at the vulnerable laminae, and in order to begin healing the tissue must be exposed to oxygen. Our equine podiatrist came out a few days later and began the nerve-wracking process of resecting his hoof wall. She exercises a strict "Do No Harm" policy, so she was conservative in what she removed, but it still left both of his front hooves looking fragile and deformed.

With that much of his toes missing, I was very concerned about the stability of his hoof and the strain it would put on the structure of his internal foot. We opted to put Bertie in a stall, and I soaked his hooves once with CleanTrax (a chemical that produces a chlorine gas that permeates the hoof) and then every other day with a mixture of organic apple cider vinegar (with "the mother") and tea tree oil. It's important to note that some horses are very sensitive or allergic to tea tree oil, so test your horse before soaking his hoof in it!

Three weeks later, Bertie's hooves showed no sign of further infection, but he was still considerably sore because of the lack of stability in his hoof, and the holes in his hooves had to be flushed multiple times a day.

Be sure to check out my next post on the super cool things our podiatrist is trying on Bertie to stabilize his hoof and bring him comfort while he heals!

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