​Hoof Abscesses

7767 3 FVS Equine LR(copy)Hoof abscesses in horses are a common occurrence

A horse suffering from this painful condition can present with a severe lameness, sometimes non-weight bearing on the toe. Owners often presume their horses have been kicked or have fractured a limb.
Commonly dirt and bacteria push through the white line of the hoof, an area
between the inside of the hoof and the laminae. This is more likely to happen
during wet conditions as the sole becomes softer. An inflammatory reaction then
results and infection can track further up the white line to the coronary band, or
start to work its way under the sole (under-run sole). Sub-solar abscesses can
also develop as a result of trauma to the sole, through bruising or even direct
Diagnosis is fairly simple with straightforward abscesses. The affected foot may
have heat in it and a stronger digital pulse. There can be swelling right up to the
knee of the affected leg. Horses will react violently when pressure is applied over
the lesion with hoof testers and there is often evidence that the white line has
been compromised. With more complicated under-run soles, xrays may be
indicated to track where the pus is heading!
The key to treatment is achieving drainage, preferably at the sole or white line
margin. If left to their own devices inflammatory fluid can track up the white line
and burst out at the coronary band. This results in prolonged healing and
disruption of new hoof growth. Very careful and prudent use of a hoof knife to
achieve drainage is important. Sensitive structures surrounding the abscess
should not be damaged, as this causes increased bleeding, delayed healing and
increased pain. Once drainage is established we use poulticing therapy and then
iodine treatment to make sure no pockets of fluid are left and that the new sole
has had a chance to keratinize, or harden. Antibiotics are rarely indicated for
straight forward abscesses and can actually delay healing and cause walled off
areas of infection or "sequestrations". Pain relief, however is important.Tetanus
Hoof abscesses or "stone bruises" are one of the major causes of tetanus in
horses. If your horse is not up to date with its vaccinations we will provide
protection at the time of treatment. Remember that your horse may be
susceptible to this devastating disease if you are having a go at treating an abscess
yourself or working with your farrier.