Equine Hoof Abscesses

Updated: May 4

Hoof abscesses are a common reason one might notice a sudden lameness of their horse. Generally this sudden problem tends to arise in the spring season due to moisture and weather change. Tiny cracks within the hoof allows dirt, and moisture into the hoof. This leads to a bacterial infection that becomes extremely painful for the horse to bear weight.

How do you recognize a possible abscess? An abscess can present itself in several distinct ways. If you notice your horse doing any of the below listed things, it may be time to give your veterinarian a call.

  • Carrying weight on either the heel or toe of the hoof depending on the site of infection

  • Heat within the affected foot (generally this hoof is creating more heat than the other feet)

  • Puss and or bleeding (this is caused by the abscess bursting)

  • Sudden persistent lameness

  • Severe hoof pain

  • Swelling of limbs above the affected hoof (this is caused by the horse not moving around enough)

Depending on the severity of the abscess, there are different ways to treat abscesses. It is best to consult with your veterinarian if you think your horse may have an abscess. How abscesses are treated:

  • If a horse has a shoe on, it should be removed from its hoof to allow proper drainage and bandaging.

  • Generally after it has been located, the hoof is wrapped in a poultice to draw the infection to the surface. After the abscess has popped, the horse will generally display relief within a few days.

  • If the abscess has not popped, a veterinarian can help pinpoint the abscess and open it to allow for proper drainage.

Prevention of hoof abscesses can be difficult to achieve especially here in Oregon due to the moisture. The constant rain followed by dry weather increases the chance of your horse getting an abscess. Ways to help prevent abscesses:

  • Providing shelter and a dry area for them to get out of the mud.

  • Proper hoof care including staying on a schedule, trimmings and shoes that will allow for healthy hoofs and a sturdy white line within the hoof.

  • Consulting with your veterinarian and farrier. ​

Written by Ashlynn Noble

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