Canker, a common name for proliferative pododermatitis, is a chronic hoof infection that has traditionally been associated with draft horse breeds living in wet, unhygienic conditions. Recently however, more and more cases have been seen in horses with good hygiene and care. There may also be an increased risk for Tennessee Walking Horses. Horse owners may initially mistake it for thrush during the early stages, because it generally begins in the frog of the feet. Recent studies suggest the involvement of an immune response to infection with bovine papilloma virus (cattle wart virus), which is the same virus associated with the development of sarcoids on the horse's skin.
What does Canker Look Like?
This microorganism causes abnormal keratin production, resulting in the development of soft, creamy cauliﬂower-like proliferative tissue. It is often associated with a foul-smelling caseous exudate and can affect the frog, sulci, bars, soles, adjacent hoof wall, and coronary bands. If canker is left untreated, it will progress to the other parts within the foot and in severe cases, the adjacent hoof wall. Depending on the severity of the infection, the horse may or may not be lame. One or more feet may be affected.
How is Canker Treated?
Treatment for canker involves surgery followed by 6-10 weeks of stall rest and daily hoof bandage changes. Surgery involves debridement of the abnormal tissue. Depending on the severity and number of feet affected, the procedure may be performed while the horse is standing under sedation or under general anesthesia. Following surgery, the horse will need to be kept on stall rest in a clean, well-maintained environment where their feet are kept clean and dry. During recovery it is important horses receive frequent progress exams with the treating veterinarian, for the cankerous tissues often reappear and require additional debridement to control the infection.