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Treating an Abscess

A few simple steps to treat this common ailment will help to bring your horse back to soundness.

By Leslie Potter
Photos Lesley Ward
| October 2008 Exclusive

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Soaking the hoof several times a day will eventually cause an abscess to erupt and drain. However, some vets now advise against frequent soaking as it may weaken the hoof wall.  Some horse owners instead choose to apply drawing agents, such as ichthamol or Epsom salts, directly to the hoof under a bandage.
One of the most common causes of sudden-onset lameness in horses is an abscess.  These occur when bacteria invade a horse’s hoof, and the horse becomes lame when the infection reaches the sensitive structures of the foot.  Besides showing varying degrees of lameness, a horse with an abscess will be sensitive to hoof testers or percussion and may have lower leg swelling or an increased digital pulse.

The abscess may erupt on its own, either from the sole of the hoof or at the coronary band.  Otherwise, your vet will pare away the sole to locate and drain the site of infection.

The goal in treating an abscess is to draw out the infection and keep the area clean to prevent reinfection while the hoof heals.  Once you have confirmed the diagnosis with your vet, follow the steps below to put your horse on the road to recovery.

The products you'll need to help treat your horse's hoof abscess

You will need a flexible bucket or tub, Epsom salts and Animalintex pads or iodine.

Bandaging materials include sheet cotton or a diaper, elastic bandage and duct tape.

Treating a Hoof Abscess Step 1
Step 1:  Mix Epsom salts in a bucket of warm water.  Use enough salts to reach the point of saturation, where no more will dissolve.

Treating a Hoof Abscess Step 2
Step 2:  Submerge the entire hoof up to the coronary band and soak for 10 minutes.  This will help draw out the infection and will encourage the abscess to erupt if it has not already been opened and drained.


Treating a Hoof Abscess Step 3
Step 3:  Soak an Animalintex poultice pad in hot water.

Treating a Hoof Abscess Step 4
Place the pad over the sole of the hoof.

Alternate Treatment of a Hoof Abscess Step 1
If you do not have any Animalintex pads, you can make a poultice with Epsom salts and iodine.   

Alternate Treatment of a Hoof Abscess Step 2
Pack the paste into the hoof so it covers the entire sole.

Treating a Hoof Abscess Step 4

Step 4:  Wrap the hoof in a diaper or sheet cotton.  Secure the diaper by tightly wrapping it with elastic bandage. Cover the entire bandage with duct tape for durability. If your horse will be turned out or is prone to destroying bandages, you may want to use a hoof boot.

For step-by-step instructions on bandaging a hoof, click here.

Your horse may be sound in as little as a couple of days.  Once the abscess has drained, keeping the hoof protected from dirt and debris is the best way to avoid complications or reinfection.  And of course, always consult your vet to help you decide the best course of action. 

For further reading on hoof abscesses, click here >>

graduated from William Woods University with a Bachelor's of Science in Equestrian Science with a concentration in saddle seat riding.

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Treating an Abscess

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Reader Comments

Mattie    Tolar, TX

6/4/2014 7:31:29 AM

So, Jennifer, what other ways are there?

Kippy    International

4/24/2014 3:13:34 PM

I've been using an Epsom salts soak for years with perfect success in my commercial stable but liked the extra ideas you provide.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

10/25/2013 11:56:26 PM

Great advice!

Diane    Longmont, CO

1/8/2013 9:58:48 AM

This is the best information I have found on the Net. My vet didn't even offer this alternative. Many thanks.

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