Many horses are affected by hoof abscesses, but what exactly are they? Put simply, a hoof abscess is a localised bacterial infection confined to the delicate structures of the hoof. Facing infection, the body produces purulent fluid (pus) to try to isolate and control the infection.

A hoof abscess is a localised bacterial infection

Abscesses of the hoof are particularly painful because of their location – since the hoof cannot expand, the presence of an abscess causes extreme pressure and discomfort.

Abscesses are caused when foreign matter gains entry into the hoof. This either happens through a fissure or break, or an open, untreated wound. When perforation of the sole occurs, it usually takes two to four days for an infection to take hold and an abscess to form. Crucially, if the abscess is not treated quickly, it can rupture.

If your horse appears acutely lame and can bear no weight on the foot, it's possible a hoof abscess is to blame.

How are hoof abscesses treated?

Sometimes hoof abscesses heal of their own accord, although due to their painfulness and how much they affect mobility and quality of life, veterinary intervention is often needed.

Once the abscess has been identified, the vet will make a small incision through which to drain out the pus. If, on the other hand, the abscess is too deep in the foot to reach or risk incising, the only option is to leave the abscess until it bursts of its own accord.

Whether the abscess is drained or not, it is vital that you keep the hoof clean and protected as much as possible. Applying a poultice to the affected hoof/limb will ensure the foot is protected while it heals.

Treatment for an abscess includes applying a poultice

It is generally recommended that you apply Epsom Salt directly to the hoof to draw the abscess out and encourage the infection away from the hoof.

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