Flaky Peeling Hooves in Horses and Donkeys

Hello! I have 2 young donkeys, a Jack and Jenny. They both have hoof problems and my farrier doesn’t know what to do. Their hooves are very soft, and they just seem to be flaking off from the outside from the bottom up about 1″. I am pretty worried. Are there some supplements that would help them with this problem? There is not a lot of info out there on Donkeys and how to feed them correctly. Any help would be appreciated. -Thanks, SK, Texas

Dear SK,

There are two ways to approach improving hoof quality: from the inside and from the outside. If your donkeys already receive good-quality hay or pasture and a fortified grain, ration balancer or multi-vitamin to supply the rest of their daily nutrient requirements, adding a hoof supplement may be all you have to do to help improve their hoof quality. However, if they are only getting hay or pasture, then you may want to add one of these types of products to make sure there are no nutritional gaps that could be contributing to the problem.

Research has shown that biotin—and other specific ingredients—can improve both the quality and the quantity of the equine hoof:

Vet Rec. 1984 Dec 22-29;115(25-26):642-5.
Clinical observations on the response of equine hoof defects to dietary supplementation with biotin.
Comben N, Clark RJ, Sutherland DJ.

Vet Rec. 1987 Jun 13;120(24):568-70.
Scanning electron microscope observations of hoof horn from horses with brittle feet.
Kempson SA.

Equine Vet J. 1995 May;27(3):175-82.
Hoof horn abnormalities in Lipizzaner horses and the effect of dietary biotin on macroscopic aspects of hoof horn quality.
Josseck H, Zenker W, Geyer H.

Equine Vet J. 1995 May;27(3):183-91.
Histological and physical assessment of poor hoof horn quality in Lipizzaner horses and a therapeutic trial with biotin and a placebo.
Zenker W, Josseck H, Geyer H.

To improve the quality of their hooves from the outside, make sure the environment is “hoof-friendly” and use products designed to help maintain the right moisture and oxygen content in the hoof.

A hoof-friendly environment is one that is as consistent as possible. That is, hooves are not going from wet to dry to wet conditions on a regular basis. Experts believe a constantly changing environment is worse than one that is too wet or too dry. So don’t give your donkeys baths unless you have to, don’t overfill the water tank so there’s mud around the outside, and don’t let their stalls become wet with urine and feces.

There have always been a lot of choices in topical hoof products, and it’s difficult to decide which, if any, your equine needs. Some experts say don’t use anything, some say avoid petroleum or tar-based products and only use lanolin-based ones, and some say use a hoof or sole sealant or hardener such as my favorite, Keratex. I recommend asking your veterinarian and farrier what they suggest, then pick a product and try it for a while to see if you notice any improvement. Best of luck!