How to Treat a Hoof Abscess in Horses

Three Parts:Identifying a Hoof AbscessGetting Veterinary TreatmentContinuing Treatment at Home

The health of a horse's hooves is very important to its overall health and comfort. If bacteria gets inside your horse's hoof, it can cause an infection to develop that can cause the horse great discomfort and pain. Whether the bacteria got inside the hoof due to a trauma, such as the hoof being punctured with a nail, or due to the poor health of the hoof, it is imperative that the infection is treated as soon as possible. It is key that you are able to identify a problem, that you get professional help, and that you effectively nurse the horse back to health.

Part 1
Identifying a Hoof Abscess

  1. 1
    Look for discomfort when your horse walks. If your horse is suddenly hesitant to walk around, it may due to an infection in its hoof that is causing it pain.[1] Be on the look out for changes to your horse's gait or to your horse being hesitant to walk around or put pressure on one of its hooves.
  2. 2
    Inspect the top of horse's hooves. If you suspect a problem with your horse's hooves, then you will need to inspect them. As long as you know your horse well, and you are familiar with handling a horse, you should be able to inspect your horses hooves safely.[2]
    • Look for signs of abnormalities on the surface of the hooves. Looks for cracks, injuries, or swelling.
  3. 3
    Inspect the bottom of the horse's hooves. You will need to clean the bottom surface of the hoof, so that you can see any problems. Once again, look for cracks, injuries, or swelling. Then use hoof tools, such as a hoof pick, hoof knife, and hoof testers, to test the horse's sensitivity.[3]
    • Infections stemming from injuries often occur when a horse shoe nail is driven into the center part of the hoof. This drives bacteria deep into the hoof and established the infection.
    • If the horse is hesitant to let you look at its hooves, you may need help to get it under control to that it is still enough for inspection.
    • If you find a
  4. 4
    Feel the hoof area for heat. An abscess infection can generate a lot of heat in and around your horse's hoof. Feel around the top of the hoof, being sure to also assess any associated swelling or discomfort your horse is feeling.[4]

Part 2
Getting Veterinary Treatment

  1. 1
    Don't wait for the infection to rupture. Some horse owners will wait for an abscess to rupture on its own, rather than getting veterinary treatment. This is not humane, as the abscess causes the horse extreme pain.[5]
    • Instead, once you notice a problem you should get it treated by a professional immediately.
  2. 2
    Make a veterinary appointment. An abscess in your horse's hoof can be difficult to identify and treat effectively on your own. That is why it is a good idea to get the medical expertise of a veterinarian that is used to treating horses if you suspect an abscess.
    • When you call to make an appointment be sure to tell the veterinarian what your horse's symptoms are, when they developed, and what you suspect is going on. This will help the vet decide whether your horse needs immediate treatment.
  3. 3
    Allow the veterinarian to assess the problem. First, your veterinarian will probably make a general assessment of the horses health and will look at its gait. Then, he or she will take a closer look at the horse's hooves. Your veterinarian may even use hoof tools to trim the hoof so that he or she can identify problem area.[6]
    • Before trimming the hoof, your veterinarian should also clean the hoof. This will allow them to assess where to trim, as well as generally giving the vet a better view at the hoof.
  4. 4
    Agree to have the abscess drained. In order to get rid of the infection, the abscess will need to be drained.[7] Your veterinarian will need to make a hole at the edge of the hoof to establish this drainage. The vet can do this with sterile instruments in a sterile environment that will promote the healing process.
    • Draining an abscess should not happen through the bottom of the sole. Instead, the drain should be established at the junction between the sole and the hard outer wall of the hoof.
    • Draining the abscess should give your horse some immediate relief.

Part 3
Continuing Treatment at Home

  1. 1
    Follow your veterinarian's instructions. Give any medications that your veterinarian prescribes. This can include a painkiller that will also reduce inflammation, such as a NSAID.[8] Your veterinarian is likely to stress the importance of keeping the injured area clean, which means also keeping the horse's living quarters clean.
    • It's important to keep the wound clean until it has healed, which usually takes a week or so.
    • Your veterinarian may also suggest an hoof soak to promote draining. This should only be done on the advice of a veterinarian, as excessive soaking can weaken the hoof.[9]
  2. 2
    Change bandages frequently.[10] After draining the abscess, your vet will likely apply a poultice, which is a medicated piece of fabric that will protect the drainage area. The medication on the bandage will keep the abscess draining for a few days. You should understand how to apply a new bandage, as it will need to be changed every day until the injury is healed.[11]
    • If the bandage begins to come off, be sure to reapply it.
  3. 3
    Keep an eye on your horse. While your horse is healing you should keep a look out for signs that the infection is not healing or developing further.[12] Signs of a problem that requires veterinary attention include:
    • Increase in drainage or drainage lasting more than two days
    • Continuing signs of pain after two days
    • Loss of appetite
    • Flesh growing out of drainage hole

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Categories: Horse Health