Friday, August 13, 2010

White line disease, Part I

Several farriers have told me they are seeing more WLD than ever, whether from wet conditions, reduced bedding, less turnout, or some combination of factors. I don't remember where I formed an impression of what "white line disease" is, but having done some research recently, I now know it's not what I thought it was. 

If I'm ignorant about WLD I'm in good company. Veterinary researchers and practitioners can't say much about it either -- at least not with any certainty. We are not sure what it is, what causes it, or how to treat it. 

 Fungi or bacteria?
Yes. WLD seems to be a little of both, or a lot of both. Treatment should contain fungicides but also antibacterial meds.

Breaking and entering vs. Looting
No one is really sure if WLD is a primary cause or just a secondary problem related to a primary cause like laminitis, poor hoof balance, or a hoof crack. It's the difference between breaking and entering and looting. In other words...
  1. The fungi/bacterial infection  is guilty of breaking and entering through the  hoof's protective barriers.
  2. Or, maybe the fungi/bacteria are just "in the neighborhood" when the windows are broken. With the hooves' natural security/protection compromised, it's easy looting.
 Many researchers, such as Stephen O'Grady (see his article on WLD), believe that the looter scenario  is most likely (of course he may not like the metaphor, which is all mine, for better or worse).  If this is true, then the treatment will include not only addressing the WL infection but the primary cause, whether its laminitis or whatever.

There is so much info out there on WLD, I'm going to break it into chunks -- there may be 10 parts to this series :-)


  1. My horse Toby had WLD. I had to take him to Michigan State University and have about a 1/4 of his hoof resected. That was 4 yrs ago and now he's a 20 yr old rock star at low level dressage (his 3rd career now). I had to do a ton of care for him but the hoof grew back well and he's in perfect health. I think his thoroughbred shelly feet and some neglect to trim his feet timely from his previous owners were the cause...

  2. My farrier thinks Tuck's recent lameness was due to a touch of WLD started in a chronic hoof crack. He's been trimming it out.

    It always amazes me how little we actually know about hoof ailments in this modern day and age.

  3. A heel first landing and well connected laminae (the natural "Velcro" attaching the wall to the hoof capsule) are critical to a healthy WLD-free hoof.

    Here is an article from 2005.

    There is a great deal of information available from competent professionals.

  4. I look forward to learning about it. Thank you.

  5. I noticed this morning that my mares two front hooves have a white band (she has solid black hooves) by her leg at the cornet. Is this the same thing? It has been extremely wet around here in WI and I am a little worried. She is not lame at all though. Should I be really worried??

  6. To Sara:
    You are describing the "periople", which covers the new hoof as it grows. The periople is quickly worn away and only noticeble near the coronary band. It is (sort of) like a thin version of the human nail cuticle.
    The white line is visible from the bottom of the hoof between the sole and inner hoof wall. The white line is off white or pale yellow in healthy hooves, as opposed to dark, foul-smelling, and/or showing a large gap between the sole and inner wall in unhealthy hooves.


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