Seedy Toe

What is seedy toe?

Seedy toe is a separation of the horse’s hoof wall from the underlying sensitive laminae at the white line. This results in a cavity which fills with crumbling dirt, horn and debris and is prone to infection.

What causes seedy toe?

It mainly occurs in horses with a long toe/low heel conformation, where the hoof wall separation and subsequent infection are the primary features. It can occur as a complication of chronic laminitis with rotation and sinking of the pedal bone (P3 or distal phalanx), followed by secondary infection. It may also occur in feet with poor dorso-palmar (front to back) balance and as a sequel to 'club foot' and may be predisposed by poor quality hoof horn. Infection in all forms of seedy toe can liquefy hoof keratin separating the sensitive laminae, and resulting in lameness in affected horses.

How is seedy toe diagnosed?

When cleaning or searching the horse’s foot, a cavity is found between the hoof wall and underlying sensitive laminae, i.e. along the white line, usually at the toe. The associated hoof wall is often very poor quality crumbling horn. The condition may or may not cause lameness. However, lameness is common if there is active infection within the cavity, or the condition is secondary to chronic laminitis, both of which exert pressure on the sensitive laminae of the hoof.

Radiographic (x-ray) examinations will define the extent (depth) of the separation and whether pedal bone rotation or pedal osteitis has occurred.

How is seedy toe treated?

The separated and necrotic infected horn should be removed with a hoof knife, nippers or a dremel but only in experienced

hands. We will often use sedation & a nerve block. This establishes drainage and exposing the infected tissues to air, which discourages growth of bacteria. The edges of the normal horn should be tapered to prevent the collection of infected dirt and debris. Antiseptics and astringents, e.g. dilute iodine may be applied to the cleaned, raw tissues. In some cases the horse may be treated with antibiotics, if the deeper tissues of the foot are involved.

Tetanus vaccination should be given if the horse is not fully vaccinated or if vaccination status cannot be confirmed.

Afterwards, the horse should be housed in clean, dry conditions while the hoof wound is regularly cleaned and treated until the infection is controlled and the tissues heal. The horse should then be shod with a flat, broad-webbed shoe, fitted long at the heels, or a full-bar shoe, to help support the foot until the hoof re-grows. Where large amounts of hoof have been removed it may be necessary to use fibreglass hoof repair or BondnFlex.

Feed supplements containing zinc, biotin and methionine may help to aid good quality hoof growth, especially for those horses with naturally brittle feet. Those with naturally brittle feet may also benefit from being fed Calplus with Biotin.

How can seedy toe be prevented?

Ideally your horse should be exercised regularly and housed in clean dry conditions. Keeping your horse’s feet regularly picked out and cleaned may assist in avoiding the development of infection. Your horse’s feet should be regularly trimmed and shod, by a competent farrier, to avoid the development of long toe conformation which may pre-dispose to seedy toe.


The prognosis for complete resolution is good for cases of seedy toe which are diagnosed and treated early. This is less the case if laminitis is involved, and/or there is already extensive involvement of deeper tissues. In the latter cases, management is best achieved by regular hoof trimming and skilful shoeing.

It may take considerable time for the hoof defect to fill with new horn. Remember that hoof wall horn grows down from the coronary band at  only approximately 1 cm per month!




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