What is Equine Canker and How Can You Prevent It?

Grey horse in field

Equine Canker is an infective soup of bacteria, fungus, spirochetes, worms, virus and proud flesh. When infected, the animal will have abnormal keratin production or overgrowth of the horn-producing tissue of the equine hoof. While Canker is often a rare condition, there are several preventive measures to take to keep the horse healthy and comfortable. 

Equine Canker on horse hoof

Signs and Symptoms

Equine Canker can occur in any breed of horse and can affect one-four hooves at once. A professional farrier or veterinarian should examine the area in question before starting treatments. Some of the early signs of Canker include: a distinct odor, white or yellow cheese-like matter or abnormal tissue that looks like cauliflower, bleeding tissue from cleaning, and mild lameness. 



Bedding: Choose a bedding that will aid in drying the horse’s hooves efficiently. Wood shavings are more effective in order to keep the animal’s hooves dry, rather than using straw bedding. Straw bedding collects dust and bacteria that can form microorganisms when wet. If the horse is constantly standing in wet straw, then they are more likely to be exposed to harmful bacteria that sits in their hooves. 


Grooming horse hoof

Grooming: When it comes to grooming the horse, we encourage picking and inspecting the horse’s hooves daily. When trying to prevent canker, it is important to make sure the horse’s hooves are dry and clean. Removing any sort of debris and dirt will keep the at-risk-area clean. 

Antiseptic: An antiseptic should be applied to the soles of all four hooves twice a week to prevent any fungal growth. We recommend using Venice Turpentine as an antiseptic because it also aids in any soreness in the hooves. 

Pasture: Prolonged mud exposure can lead to bacterial and fungal infections on the skin. Try to manage the muddy and watery areas of your pasture so the horse is not at risk of standing in these areas too long, preventing infection. Spreading wood chips or sand helps dry these areas quickly. For long-term protection, consider planting water hungry trees like Conifers


Giving horse suppliments

Omega 3: Add foods to the horse’s diet that are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds and Chia Seeds are an excellent source of Omega 3 and easy to add into meals. This can help their skin and provide nutrients to areas that may be prone to overgrowth with canker. 

Supplements and Helpful Products

Equine Medical and Surgical Associates provide several products and supplements to keep the horse’s hooves healthy. Health-E Horse Vitamin E is the strongest vitamin E supplement in the U.S., and should be given to the horse daily to support their immune system. 


In addition to Heath-E, Horse Canker Powder should be utilized. The Horse Canker Powder is a blend of desiccants, antibacterial, antifungals, vitamins, herbs, and anti-inflammatory agents. This product has been proven to show improvements in two-three weeks. Horse Canker Powder should be used as directed in our 4-Step Program to clear canker. 

Horse Canker Powder

Before these products can be used, the entire infected area on your horse’s hooves should be removed. Superficial debridement of the canker is necessary for treatment to work correctly.

Equine Canker is a condition that infects tissue in the horse’s hooves, requiring treatment to be quick to prevent lameness and further pain. For more information about how to prevent and treat canker visit our in-depth page for a deeper look at equine canker.


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