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Hoof Abscesses

The most common underlying cause of a hoof abscess is penetration of the sole by a sharp object. Bacteria in the soil or stable bedding can gain entry via hairline cracks in the sole or around the frog, most commonly after rain and wet conditions following a dry period.

Typical signs include reluctance to bear weight on the hoof, standing on the toe of the hoof, swelling and ‘heat’ around the pastern and fetlock, or up the limb in severe cases, and ‘warmth’ in the infected hoof when held up and cupped in the hand as compared to the adjacent hoof.

To locate an abscess, carefully scrape and clean the sole with a hoof knife – you may see the discolouration of a stone bruise under the sole, or a ‘weeping’ infected crack in the sole or around the frog.

What can you do to help?

You can apply a simple bran and Epsom salt poultice, or a commercial poultice product, to drain out the pus and infection.

Once the abscess has been drained, plug the hole with cotton wool soaked in antiseptic solution and keep your horse on dry bedding for a couple of days.

Don’t give your horse antibiotics to treat a hoof abscess unless under veterinary supervision – this may kill the bacteria but leave a “cold” abscess, which may erupt a few days later.

If the abscess is extensive and takes more than 12 hours to drain and for the inflammation to subside, seek advice from your vet.

Tip

  • If the abscess is related to a penetrating object, such as a nail, a vaccination or antitoxin needle for tetanus must be given. Consult your vet for advice.

Adapted from Common Hoof Problems from the website www.kohnkesown.com.

Reproduced courtesy of the author, Dr John Kohnke BVSc RDA.