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Hoof abscess in the horse

On Christmas Eve, Brucke our 8 year old mare, went lame, whilst out in the field. Despite a thorough examination, the reason for the lameness in her right hind leg could not be found. Having lost a shoe on her left fore leg, we presumed she’d been doing cartwheels in the field with Gareth the Blue Cross rescue pony whilst we were at work and had twisted her leg. After hosing her leg down, we tucked her up in her stable for the night, with the dream of a Christmas Day morning hack in the forest scuppered. 

Over the next few days, she began to improve with box rest and anti-inflammatories, with the reason for the lameness still unknown. However, five days ago, the lameness returned with a vengeance and bless her, she was really sore. She had a small amount of heat in her hoof, a very slight increase in the pulse to her foot and she really did not want to put any pressure on the foot whatsoever. You’d think she’d broken her leg looking at her and all the symptoms began to suggest a hoof abscess but even with hoof testers and daily poulticing, not much was happening. 

Thankfully, on Monday, an abscess broke out at her heel, at the level of the coronary band. Having seen a lot of hoof abscesses in our time, this one was not that easy to pin point and it had taken two weeks to come to a head. It’s the right time of year for a hoof abscess - when it gets wet and muddy, debris can find it’s way into the hoof through the little nooks and crannies and act as a focus of infection. 


Pictures above show the location of the abscess break out site - you can see a line just below the coronary band on the right heel and Brucke's foot in the Epsom Salt foot bath


Vets aren't very good at bandaging - ask any vet nurse! But here's Brucke with her poultice and vet wrap bandage.

The farrier had already removed her shoes so we could begin to treat the foot by soaking her foot in a bucket of warm water and epsom salts twice daily and poulticing the foot, changing it twice a day. Her anti-inflammatories were reduced so that we could determine if her lameness was improving. 

Brucke enjoying her hay as she patiently allows her dressings to be changed

The good news is that she has improved massively over the last few days. There’s always a worry that any infection could’ve worked it’s way deeper into the vital structures of the foot, and without x-rays or taking fluid samples from the foot joints, it’s not easy to know. But given she’s improved with medical treatment, any serious complications look like they’ve been avoided.

It’s always a good idea to have a stock of poultice dressings, bandages and epsom salts in your horsey first aid kit, just in case you find your horse in the same situation with a foot abscess. I’ve put together a hoof abscess kit with all the items you need to help your trusty steed make a quick recovery. I’ve also been using the Vetericyn Wound Spray to help with any superficial infections.

If you think your horse has an abscess or an unexplained lameness, we’d recommend contacting your vet for an appointment and if you need any products to help treat them, please give us a shout. 

Have a good week everyone

Chris the Vet



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