View Full Version : Is it ok to use cooking oil on hors

10-05-07, 07:21 AM
Had a friend ask me this and I wouldnt hav a clue.
Is it ok to use cooking oils to paint horses hooves with?

10-05-07, 08:15 AM
I guess one could say it is 'safe' but what is it supposed to be achieving? Ask your friend "Would wild horses have access to oil on their feet?"
Article on Hoof Dressings for anyone interested:
Hoof dressings aren't always what they're cracked up to be--at least not
in the opinions of some experts. Ilka P. Wagner, DVM, owner of Equine
Veterinary Services (Texas), and Susan Kempson, BSc, PhD, senior
lecturer in Preclinical Veterinary Sciences in the Royal (Dick) School
of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, have studied the
efficacy of hoof dressings. Robert Sigafoos, Certified Journeyman
Farrier, chief of farrier services and director of the Applied Polymer
Research Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania's School of
Veterinary Medicine, bases his opinions (self-described as "subjective")
on 28 years of experience.

Purpose of Dressings

Hoof dressings are promoted to remedy cracks, splits, moisture loss, and
associated lameness. Says Wagner, "Hoof dressings are commercially
(prepared) or homemade external hoof wall applications that are
'reputed' to be beneficial to the growth, metabolism, and overall health
of the equine hoof wall. Many products make label claims that they
encourage hoof wall growth, strength-en the wall matrix, and even go so
far as saying they prevent laminitis. They are available at most feed
stores as well as over the Internet to the horse owner."

There are three types of hoof wall dressings that claim to preserve
moisture of the hoof wall. Wagner identifies them as:

Primarily petroleum oil-based--These are usually "gooey" or tarry
products. Ingredients might include neatsfoot and/ or cod liver oil,
pine tar, petroleum compounds, and/or turpentine.
Primarily lanolin-based--These are usually more the consistency of hand
lotion. Ingredients might include lanolin, lactates, stearates,
alcohols, and glycerin.
Primarily containing a drying agent--Ingredients might include acetone.
The question is, how well do they work?

Hoof Permeability

Sigafoos has used some hoof wall products principally to manage hairline
cracks at the coronary band, a problem that is very common in
Standardbreds. "I have had some success in using prescription dressings
that contain antifungal agents and steroids to control fungal infections
at the coronet," he says. Otherwise, he believes that hoof dressings are
of "limited value" for acute or chronic hoof problems.

Kempson has investigated the effects of hoof dressings on hoof wall by
examining the permeability barrier in the hoof capsule and factors that
influence it. "This work started in the mid-1990s and is ongoing," she
reports. "Before I could look at the effect of hoof dressings on the
horn, I had to investigate the permeability barrier in the horn."

Just as there is a permeability barrier controlling passage of water and
water-soluble materials into and out of the skin, so there is one in the
hoof horn. To study this aspect of the hoof wall, Kempson used
water-soluble tracers visible with both light microscopes and electron
microscopes. "The tracers are small molecules that travel with the water
into the horn," she explains. "If the water can get into the horn, then
it could also get out! The water could either travel between the cells
or through the horn cells, or a combination of both."

She took full-thickness blocks of horn from dorsal walls, soles, and
frogs of feet obtained post-mortem. She compared good-quality horn with
poor-quality horn (i.e., horn with cracks).

"In feet with good-quality horn, there was virtually no penetration of
the tracers and water through the outer pigmented layer of the dorsal
wall," Kempson found. "There was some penetration through the inner
non-pigmented layer of the wall both through the intercellular spaces
(between cells) and through the cells. This indicated differences in the
permeability barrier between the inner and outer layers of the wall. In
a normal hoof, the inner layer is not exposed to the environment and is
therefore unlikely to lose or absorb water through this horn. There was
more penetration of the tracer through the sole horn and even more
through the frog horn, but this was still only limited to a few cell
layers--five to eight cell layers in the sole, and 12-18 cell layers in
the frog, which is less than one millimeter."

Her findings regarding poor-quality horn were quite different. In these
walls, the water and tracer penetrated deep into the pigmented layer and
spread through the intercellular spaces and into the non-pigmented horn.

As part of the study, Kempson also examined how environmental conditions
could affect hoof wall integrity. "Having spent several years studying
the effects of nutrition on the hoof capsule, it became clear that the
environment was also having an influence on the integrity of the horn,"
she explains. Therefore, Kempson looked at the effects of feces, urine,
hoof dressings, heat, cold, and water--the various elements to which
horses' hooves could be exposed.

For two weeks, blocks of wall, sole, and frog were either left in the
test solutions, heated to 98.6F (37C), chilled to 39.2F (4C), or
left in water. Afterward, they were exposed to the water-soluble

"The results were surprising," Kempson says. "Heat, cold, and water had
no effect on the permeability barrier. The sole and frog horn left in
feces for two weeks disintegrated, and poor-quality wall horn was also
badly affected. Good-quality wall horn was only marginally changed.
Urine alone had little effect, but combining urine and feces had the
same results as feces alone.

"My conclusion is that the horn has a built-in permeability barrier,"
she says. "As long as the horse has a well-balanced diet so that he can
produce good-quality horn, leave the hoof horn to look after itself."

Hoof Dressing Research

Formalin is extensively used as a biological fixative for routine
histology, preservation of cadavers, etc. It can also be used as a
disinfectant because it kills bacteria. When Kempson applied dressings
containing formalin to the hoof samples, there was no change in the
permeability barrier of either good or bad horn samples.

"Formalin causes the horn to lose its plasticity, and it becomes brittle
and more liable to crack," she states. "With horn of poor quality, the
formalin-based dressings penetrated deeper into the horn than in the
good quality feet. This meant that the micro cracks caused by the
formalin extended farther into the tissue and this let water and other
materials penetrate the horn. The damage caused by the formalin-based
dressings was greatest in the sole."

Poor-quality horn treated with formalin thus becomes more susceptible to
infectious and toxic agents, and therefore this chemical is best

The study also showed that hoof dressings containing solvents and
tar-based components damaged poor-quality horn. In some cases, the
intercellular lipids or fats were damaged, allowing water contained
within the horn to evaporate, thus causing the horn to become dry and
brittle. In very wet conditions, using these hoof dressings allows water
into the horn, and the feet become very soft and weak.

"When these products were applied to poor-quality horn, the damage was
magnified, and I could not get results from some of the tissues because
they had disintegrated in the test solutions," she notes.

Good-quality horn was affected in the same way, but it took longer for
the effects to be seen. "It was also clear that the majority of the
dressings that horse owners applied to the hoof capsule did much more
harm than good. Most are unaware of what they are doing to their horse's
feet. They apply the dressings with the best of intentions, but more
research needs to be done to clarify the situation."

Wagner participated in two separate hoof studies done at Texas A&M
University. One in vitro (outside the body) study was to determine if
hoof wall dressings could alter the hoof wall moisture content under
controlled laboratory conditions. The second in vivo (in the living
body) study looked at the ability of certain products to change the
biomechanical ability of the hoof wall to withstand certain stresses.

Previous research showed a relationship between relative hydration of
the hoof wall and its mechanical properties. Wagner says, "If the wall
suffers from dehydration or overhydration, it will become more
susceptible to developing cracks and splits."

Thus, Texas A&M University researchers sought to evaluate the relative
efficacy of commercial hoof wall dressings in maintaining hoof wall
hydration. Researchers took hoof wall samples from 10 clinically normal,
sound horses within 24 hours after euthanasia (they weren't killed for
this study). "We coated these samples with 15 different products, let
them dry over 48 hours, and measured the samples at certain intervals,"
Wagner says. The products were either mainly oil-based, lanolin-based,
or contained mostly acetone.

"We did calculations to determine sample moisture content changes to see
if these products could maintain the moisture content that was already
there or increase it," he says.

Data indicated that several products under ideal conditions could
maintain hydration of the wall for 12 to 24 hours. Control samples
without the dressing lost much more relative moisture. When the three
groups were compared, those products maintaining the highest degree of
relative hydration in the hoof wall at 24 hours were primarily the oil,
pine tar, and petroleum-based products, says Wagner.

"However, that's not necessarily a good thing because you can
over-moisturize the wall and make the wall less strong than it was to
begin with," he says. "Too much can be bad. I think there are situations
in which it is apparent that the hoof wall is exceptionally dry, but
that could have been an adaptation to the environment and not
necessarily a bad condition for the hoof."

Hoof wall achieves its maximal fracture toughness when relative
hydration is maintained at approximately 70-75% moisture. However,
studies are needed to evaluate the best hydration level. It's important
to remember that environment will have a significant effect on hydration
of the hoof.

The researchers warned that results shouldn't be directly extrapolated
to living horses, as normal horse movement can physically remove the
dressing from the hoof wall, thus reducing its efficacy.

"In addition, the internal environment of the horse's foot may
contribute to maintenance of natural hoof wall moisture as well," Wagner
notes. "Obviously, this was not a contributory factor in this study."

The second study in which Wagner took part examined whether commercial
hoof dressings could affect hoof wall strength in live horses. This
study used three selected products applied to the feet of five horses
for 13 weeks--a different product for three hooves with the remaining
hoof used as a control. These horses lived in normal conditions, being
exposed to rainy and dry weather conditions. For 13 weeks, lanolin-based
and petroleum-based products were applied twice daily, while the
acetone-based dressing was applied once a week (per label

"At the end of that period, we took strips of hoof wall samples to the
engineering department to measure the strength of the hoof wall," he
says. "A lot of products claim they can change the protein structure and
strength of the hoof wall; none of them made any difference. They didn't
show any kind of change in the elastic modulus (flexibility of the hoof

However, the study notes that it's "still possible that these products
are affecting the wall, but only to a certain degree. They may be
influencing the outer hoof wall, which may not be evident in this study
due to the use of full-thickness wall samples."

In reflecting on the studies, Wagner says that hoof dressings "are often
prescribed for conditions in which the hoof problem is more likely due
to a genetic problem of poor hoof wall metabolism, growth, or matrix
that simply cannot be changed."

Problem Hooves?

What should an owner do to prevent hoof problems from developing or to
help treat existing hoof problems?

Keep hooves healthy with regular trimming and shoeing. Practice good
management--i.e., don't keep your horse in soiled bedding or in
hoof-drying muddy areas.

Adds Sigafoos, "Consult your farrier or veterinarian if you are
concerned about your horse's hoof health. Usually if horses have the
kind of foot that appears to need hoof dressing, something else is going
on. The horse may have brittle feet due to a dietary problem, inadequate
shoeing frequency, or excessive toe length."

10-05-07, 08:26 AM
Are you serving the horse with baked potatoes?? If so, I would suggest the use of a good cooking oil.... :)

I have used cod liver oil on hooves with great success.........I would think cooking oil is completely safe - but too "thin" to be of any real use

10-05-07, 09:57 AM
Thankyou gdh. Superb

10-05-07, 10:26 AM
I don't think so as it clogs up the horses hooves and the hooves cant breathe.