Seedy toe can be a minor issue that requires virtually no maintenance or it can be a serious problem affecting the vast majority of the white line of the foot.
Minor cases, where there is simply a black spot or a very shallow section of lamina affected, can be dealt with by either trimming the excess sole and wall of the toe from the ground side of the foot until the majority of the seedy toe is gone and then using the hook of the hoof knife to create a small ‘crater’ to further debride the area and leave it so further dirt can’t get packed and continue affecting more lamina.
In moderate cases, it may be necessary to dig out the affected cheesy matter, clean up any affected tissue, boil out with Hydrogen Peroxide, dry, then treat with the strongest Iodine or Iodine derivative product you can find, then pack the area with bits of cotton ball that’s been soaked in the Iodine product. This treatment works well if the weather or the horse’s environment isn’t continually wet or the horse isn’t frequently standing in muck and mire. If it does have a mucky environment to deal with, I would recommend using a stronger product and I would recommend daily treatment.
Frequency of treating by this method depends on which end of the scale the moderate case is on and how much time you (the owner) are willing to put into the treatment so the recovery can happen more readily. Obviously, treating on a daily basis is going to take care of the issue quicker than treating once a week, but in less moderate situations and in relatively good environmental conditions, treating once a week may be all that’s required.
More moderately severe cases can be handled by performing a moderate resection of the affected area. The attached pictures should help you follow the progression of the trimming and resecting process. This method shouldn’t be invasive, shouldn’t draw any blood, shouldn’t cause any discomfort to the horse at all and should give no cause for alarm or fear.
Don’t be alarmed by the use of the word resect in this case. There are some forms of resection, such as with regard to founder, that are ill-advised or detrimental to the horse’s case, but in the case of a moderately severe seedy toe, it can actually be quite helpful and requires little to no treatment or maintenance between trim cycles.
The reason this is true is because the bacterial concoction that causes the white line to be eaten away is an anaerobic bacteria, meaning it thrives in moist, dark, enclosed areas, such as a manure-packed cavity in the tip of the toe of the wall. One of the best and most affective treatments for dealing with any anaerobic bacteria is by exposing it to air and sunlight, both are highly affective. I suppose if you have the use of an ultraviolet light, it’s possible to kill off the bacteria, even if it’s necessary to cover over the resected site, but air and sunlight are cheap and affective.
The toe is really the only place where ‘seedy toe’ takes place, but a similar issue can happen any where around the ground edge of the wall where the integrity of the lamina has been compromised, such as the point where a hairline injury has created a weakened section of hoof wall and that point where it meets the ground and the lamina is not strong enough or viable enough to withstand the punishment of the ground and is not capable of warding off the bacteria or other microbes.
Situations like this are usually easily maintained with no real ill affect through routine debriding and or employing a minor resection, just enough to take the pressure off that section of the wall so it doesn’t continue to pack with dirt, get in under the wall or within the wall and cause further separation. It’s usually a simple routine issue to deal with, either by you, the horse owner, or by your farrier.
Seedy toe has often been misdiagnosed as white line disease, but don’t be fooled, just because the white line is what’s being affected, this is not white line disease at all, in fact, I personally don’t believe in white line disease at all, I believe what’s known as white line disease is actually a left over condition of some mild founder (or laminitis) cases that was never caught and never treated. Seedy toe is completely different and is not dependent on or a necessary condition of laminitis.
Seedy toe is almost always associated with imbalanced feet and/or long toes. The added stress of the length of toe, interfering with a smooth break over of the foot, applies excess pressure in the toe region of the foot, thus causing the lamina to be stretched and stressed to the point where it becomes vulnerable to environmental microbes, i.e, the anaerobic bacteria, that gets it’s foot in the door, if you will, then begins to multiply and feed off of the most vulnerable part of the external foot; the lamina.
Seedy toe can so often, as well as many other issues, be kept at bay by simply applying a good, well-balanced trim, which gets the weight of the horse back into the center of the foot, not on the heels and not excessive pressure on the toe due to stabbing, stumbling or break-over pressure. The best medicine, if you will, for the feet is maintaining a good, well-balanced trim; it’s amazing how simple and easy it is to keep feet healthy and strong by maintaining a good proper trim.
Once upon a time, back in my more traditional farrier days, I tended to treat seedy toe in the traditional manner, which was to clean it, debride it, sterilize it and then cover over with some type of epoxy product. This is done most often when shoes are applied (some would argue if you do a resection like this a shoe is automatically required for hoof stability, which is not true, it’s not needed) and it’s mostly for aesthetics.
In a case where a show horse is involved and the horse is closely judged for any imperfection, it would be necessary to rebuild the resected part of the foot with some epoxy product and likely a shoe would be helpful to keep the epoxy from being pried or broken out, but I would only consider shoes in a case like this only so long as the seedy toe is being addressed and there is need to keep the wall resected. Otherwise, I wouldn’t shoe or cover the resected area at all.
The affected seedy toe area will in fact dry up and heal up much quicker by leaving the area exposed to air and sunlight than by covering with epoxy, though the area will recover if epoxy is used, but it will take longer and it will be necessary to treat and resect the area a number of times, depending on the environmental conditions, severity of the issue at the start of treatment, how well the area is treated to begin with and how frequent the farrier comes back to re-treat and re-shoe; too many variables to rely on all going right every time.
These days, I tend to address the moderately severe cases in just the way you see in the pictures. The horse in the pictures was treated only one time in this manner, the condition cleared up and grew out to the point where the next trim only required a cursory clean up of any small area that was left and even it trimmed out once the trimming and dressing of the feet was completed. I don’t believe in covering the area with anything and I don’t apply shoes for the average, non-show horse; simple resections work almost every time.
There is a situation where even the most diligent horse owner and most skillful farrier can’t clear up some seedy toe cases and in my experience, they tend to be horses that have another underlying issue, that being the an over active case of candida yeast. Candida yeast is present in most horses, but usually stays buried within the horses system and doesn’t cause any ill affects, pretty much the way EPM is present in the body, but the immune system is able to keep it suppressed. The yeast affects different horses in different ways, one of which is the chronic issue of seedy toe (do a search on candida yeast to learn more about it) and until the yeast issue is resolved, the seedy toe tends to come and go over and over again, though never really going away completely. If you have already been employing treatment similar to what the pictures show or what I have been describing, please contact me and I’ll get you in touch with people who can help you deal with the yeast problem first and you can then re-address the seedy toe issue.
The more severe cases require being a bit more drastic and diligent with the treatment. It may well be necessary to remove all the detached wall, even if that requires removing it right up the the point of the hairline and the vast majority of the wall from around the foot, then cleaning, debriding and treating the exposed lamina, allowing it to air dry as best as time and situation allows, then applying a foam rubber pad for comfort, support and stimulation of blood flow and then cast the foot for protection and comfort. If you suspect you may have a more severe situation such as I’ve described here, please contact me for a more personalized review and treatment plan as each case and situation will be different.
In a situation like this, it will be necessary to clean, treat and cast the foot a number of times; until the new wall has grown in all the way to the ground. Failing to do so can cause the issue to take longer to repair and heal, but it’s usually not the end of the world. There are various degrees of severity and many environmental issues to take into consideration, but don’t feel there is only one method of treatment and if you don’t treat just this way, your horse won’t recover. It is possible, but you have a much greater chance of clearing it up more quickly if you stay diligent with the treatment.
I hope the information has been helpful and you have a much better idea of what it looks like and how to treat it. Seedy toe can certainly be a alarming, but it need not be a prolonged problem. Remember, the best way to keep almost all conditions and ailments in check is through regular sound, balanced trimming.
Please feel free to write or call should you have questions or concerns about your horse; I’ll be happy to do what I can to help.