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Equine Health Resource

Equine Canker

Canker is a proliferative growth of the frog of the hoof that can extend into neighboring tissues. The appearance is a red, white or gray lumpy or spongy mass that grows in thick ridges, often with a cheesy or flaky surface.

The cause of canker is not entirely known, but is likely caused or perpetuated by bacteria that proliferate in wet dirty footing or due to long term hoof neglect. Due to this, canker occurs more often in horses that are stalled in consistently moist or dirty conditions. Bovine Papilloma Virus, thought to be a cause of equine sarcoids, may be related to the development of canker too.

The resulting mass of tissue can be painful and cause lameness. The principle treatment is aggressive surgical removal of the mass, maintaining the area clean and dry, and application of a variety of antibacterial preparations. It can take months and repeated surgery and other treatments to resolve this stubborn problem.

In its early stages, canker can be misdiagnosed as thrush, which is a completely different and comparatively less severe condition that is treated differently. Whereas canker is the abnormal production of keratin that occurs in live tissue resulting in tissue growth, thrush is a destructive process in which the tissues deteriorates and dies.

Skills I might need


  • Why do you think this condition is canker?
  • What can I do to help resolve it?
  • What management changes can I make to prevent it from occurring again?

    Maintain dry and hygienic stabling and footing conditions. Evaluate your horse's feet on a regular basis and ensure they receive regular farrier care.

    Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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