Seedy toe in Horses (Equis) | Vetlexicon
equis - Client Factsheets

Seedy toe

ISSN 2398-2977

Seedy toe

As every horse owner knows, the horse's foot is a very complicated structure. It may not look it from the outside, but within the hoof wall are many elements and sensitive structures that form the foot. Seedy toe is another condition of the foot that can cause long-term problems if not treated promptly.

©Prof Derek Knottenbelt

What is seedy toe?

Seedy toe is separation of the dorsal hoof wall from the sole and sensitive laminae at the dorsal white line which results in a gap that becomes full of dirt, debris and bacteria which can cause infection.

What causes seedy toe?

There are a number of causes:
  • Laminitis: there is a tendency for the hoof wall to separate from the sole in severe, long-standing cases.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: methionine, biotin and essential oil deficiencies can lead to poor hoof quality.
  • Poor conformation: long toe/low heel conformation, a dorsopalmar (front to back) imbalance and 'club foot' all lead to excessive forces on the hoof wall.
  • Poor hoof care: fungal infections can lead to a weakened white line.
  • Poor environment: for example, drought or flood conditions, or wet-dry-wet-dry fluctuations.
All of these can lead to separation of the hoof wall which introduces bacteria and subsequent infection.

How will my veterinarian diagnose seedy toe?

When your veterinarian examines your horse's foot, they will find a cavity between the hoof wall and internal sensitive laminae; this is found along the white line and is usually seen at the toe. The cavity will be filled with dead tissue and other debris. A horse suffering from seedy toe usually has poor hoof quality with crumbling horn. Lameness is usually only seen if there is active infection within the foot or if the horse is suffering from laminitis. In severe cases x-rays will be taken to determine the extent of the damage and to see if the pedal bone has rotated due to laminitis, or if there are any signs of inflammation of the pedal bone (pedal osteitis) due to infection.

Can seedy toe be treated?

Removal of all the infected and separated horn is essential to prevent further accumulation of dirt and debris within the cavity. This also prevents the growth of anaerobic bacteria (an organism that does not require oxygen to grow). The area should then be treated with a hoof disinfectant, for example iodine, until the area is clean and dry. If your horse isn't up to date with their tetanus vaccinations, your veterinarian will administer a tetanus antitoxin injection which will provide your horse with immediate protection against tetanus. Tetanus, caused by Clostridium tetani, is an environmental bacteria and is commonly found in soil, therefore foot injuries are at particular risk from the disease. Your horse should be kept stabled on clean, dry bedding until the defect has completely healed up. Once the defect has healed to a sufficient extent, your horse can be shod with a shoe adapted to support the foot until the hoof fully re-grows. In severe cases where extensive amounts of hoof wall have been removed, it may be necessary to use glue on shoes. A nutritional feed supplement containing zinc, biotin and methionine may be required if this is the main cause of the seedy toe.

How can I prevent my horse from developing seedy toe?

Regular and appropriate hoof care by a registered farrier or trimmer is essential to avoid the development of long toe/low heel conformation which can cause laminitis and as a consequence, seedy toe. Ensure you regularly check and clean your horse's feet and ensure they are kept in clean and dry stable conditions, and avoid wet-dry-wet-dry environment fluctuations. Regular exercise in another component of good hoof health, as this encourages hoof growth.