Cracked Heels: Ouch!

Cracked heels are those painful cracks in the cleft between the heel bulbs. They can be caused by a number of situations, some similar to scratches. They can also be an extension of severe thrush or due to excessive dryness of the tissue.

If there’s discharge (usually black) or a foul odor, you likely also have an infection due to an invading organism, much like thrush.

If you don’t see or smell anything unusual, but the crack is deep, gently insert a cotton swab and check for discharge. Never pry the crack open to get a look. The inflamed tissue is fragile, and you can easily cause more damage. If you find discharge, use an antimicrobial product in your treatment. Our accompanying chart includes products you may already have in your tack room for treatment.

Treat heel cracks by flushing the area once or twice a day with a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution (10 to 20 cc of peroxide per quart of water). Use a small syringe placed just into the top of the crack so you can get the solution into the cracked area. The human product pHisoDerm is a good cleanser.

Bovine antibiotic mastitis creams are available under a number of brands and antibiotic choices. They cost about $19 for a box of 12 10-cc syringes and are sold in most farm-supply stores. These creams include highly concentrated antibiotics designed for instillation into infected udders on cows. They normally come with a small cannula on the end that makes them perfect for getting medication into deep heel-cleft cracks.

You’ll also want to help reduce pain in the area and protect it with a good moisturizing, protective barrier product, such as petroleum jelly or one of the products in our chart. Good softening and barrier effects can also be obtained from generic zinc-oxide creams and some generic vitamin E creams. Continue treatment until the area returns to normal.

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