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Hoof Abscesses

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What is a hoof abscess?


Hoof abscesses occur when bacteria become trapped between the sensitive structures of the hoof. These bacteria create pus, which accumulates and then creates pressure, and can become extremely painful.


When are most abscesses mainly seen?

Hoof abscesses are most common in wet winter and spring months, as moisture in the environment can soften regions of the foot, making it easier for bacteria to enter. However, extremely dry conditions can cause brittle, cracked feet. Bacteria are then able to enter the hoof through these cracks.

Penetrating wounds or deep bruising may also trigger hoof abscesses.


How long does a hoof abscess take to form?

A hoof abscess often takes several days to form, with most horses not showing any signs of an abscess being present until the pressure becomes so intense that significant lameness results.

How will my horse appear if a hoof abscess is present?

Your horse may show varying signs of lameness, from mild to non-weight-bearing on the affected limb. You may also be able to feel an increased (‘bounding’) digital pulse in the affected foot, or unusual heat when touching the foot.

Are there any complications of a hoof abscess?

Yes, particularly with chronic abscesses and delayed treatment. Hoof abscesses can sometimes spread deeper tissues of the foot, such as the coffin bone (P3), the navicular bursa, or the tendon sheath. These complications can result in prolonged treatment and unsoundness.

How can I prevent hoof abscesses and their complications?

Whilst it is difficult to prevent hoof abscesses, regular farriery and avoidance of extremely wet or dry environmental conditions may be beneficial. Contact your veterinarian if you are concerned your horse may have developed a hoof abscess.

How do you treat the hoof abscess?

If the horse is shod, it is likely that the shoe will need to be removed to find the hoof abscess, which, once located and drained, will bring rapid relief.  The vet will then clean the site, perhaps with antiseptic or hydrogen peroxide. Traditionally, soaking the foot in warm salty water may help, however this can soften the hoof wall and sole, which may not be in the horse’s best interests.

Typically a poultice is used to encourage the abscess to drain. Poulticing the hard horn on the sole of the hoof will encourage the abscess to drain, but it’s not recommended to use a wet poultice for more than three days.

Hoof abscesses can become serious if not treated correctly. 

If in any doubt, always call Illawarra Equine Centre on Ph: 4448 6488

Rubber Boots

We now stock a range of Tubbease boots that we find  helpful in the short term management of horses with poulticed or bandaged hooves.  

Please talk to us about these boots for your horse. 

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