What A Hoof Abscess Is
Abscesses can develop many different ways. The most common is at the solar surface when an area of the sole becomes compromised, and bacteria are able to get under the surface of the hard lamina. Once under the protective barrier of the hard lamina, the bacteria find themselves in the perfect growing environmentwarm and moist . As they grow, bacteria produce toxins that actually eat away healthy tissue, allowing more bacteria to invade additional tissue. This ongoing assault often leads to a tract or pocket forming to accommodate the increasing bacteria and pus.
Since the bacterial invasion starts in the insensitive hard lamina, your horse is pain free, and you wont notice the strong bacteria colony forming within the hard hoof capsule. If the bacteria develop enough, however, they can move out of the hard insensitive lamina into the soft sensitive lamina. This is when the horses body realizes theres a problem.
The result of the bodys retaliation is a collection of dead, dying and growing bacteria, lots of white blood cells and dead tissue. Most often all of this material is fluid like, creamy or thin in texture and often gray or black in color. In the medical world its called purulent material, but is most commonly known as pus.
Hoof Abscess In Horses: Symptoms Treatments And Prevention
Horses are hardy creatures overall, and it takes a lot to hold one down. Thats why it can be such a surprise when your horse suddenly appears to be lame when it was perfectly healthy the day before. Any health concerns regarding your horse can be worrisome, but when your horse is suddenly unable to walk for no apparent and obvious reason, its a major cause for concern.
Often, when this occurs, the problem is a hoof abscess. Hoof abscesses are rather common in horses, and they can turn a healthy horse lame in a matter of hours. Your horse may have been perfectly fine yesterday, but today, it refuses to place one of its hooves on the ground, which means it isnt going anywhere for the day.
While dangerous and scary, hoof abscesses can usually be cured quite quickly with proper treatment. Of course, its best to prevent them altogether, though thats not always possible. Still, were going to discuss the best ways to avoid hoof abscesses, what they are, and how to identify and treat them should this happen to your horse.
How To Identify A Hoof Abscess
The tell-tale sign of a hoof abscess is overnightsevere lameness. Some additional signs include:
- One injured foot Abscesses generally only impact one hoof. If multiple hooves are crippled at the same time, your horse may be suffering from another condition, like2laminitis.
- A hot, throbbing pulse Another indication of a hoof abscess is a hot, throbbing pulse surrounding the lame foot.
- Signs of a lodged object Small lodged objects can cause hoof abscesses to develop. If you notice a lodged object in your horses hoof, like a nail, woodchip, rock, or piece of glass, it could offer more data for your diagnosis.
Note: If an object is lodged in your horses hoof, dont remove it yourselfleave that to your vet or farrier. They will want to examine the size and depth of the horse cut before they treat it. Oftentimes the real damage comes from improper extraction rather than the puncture wound.
- Visible pus drainage If the abscess has already ruptured, you may notice pus draining from the sole of the foot.
Checking for these signs can give you a better idea of whether your horse is dealing with a hoof abscess or something else. However, its always a good idea to have your vet and/or farrier
confirm the diagnosis and rule out other serious conditions.
How To Recognise A Hoof Abscess
- Be vigilant of any slight or intermittent lameness that becomes more pronounced until the horse almost bears no weight on the affected leg
- More weight may be carried on the toe to protect the heel
- The affected foot may feel hotter than the other feet
- There may be a noticeable or pounding digital pulse towards the back of either side of the fetlock
- The leg may become filled and swollen
- There may be severe pain and signs of distress
- If not drained, the abscess will eventually burst through the coronary band
Week One Hoof Treatment
The first week, I give her a 15-minute Epsom salt bath in hot water twice a day, using a soaking hoof boot that I bought through one of the online horse supply stores. I then clean and dry the hoof, pack it with Mag 60 Paste , put a gauze pad on top, and wrap her hoof in vet wrap, taking care not to wrap too tightly and cut off blood supply. I then take duct tape and create a secondary wrapping over the vet wrap to help it last the 12 or so hours I need it to.
I also start her on a gram of Bute once a day . Then, I keep her turned out in a large, but controlled, area by my barn. Continued movement, not stall rest, is what helps the abscess express and relieve the pressure. Nans abscesses have taken up to 14-21 days to come to a venting point.
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Farriers And Veterinarians Often Deal With Abscesses Here Is Some Practical Advice For Understanding And Treating These
Pictured Above: Foreign debris will gain entry and accumulate in a small separation or fissure located in the sole-wall junction anywhere around the perimeter of the foot, including the abaxial surface of the bars adjacent to the sole.
Hoof abscesses are probably the most common cause of acute severe lameness in horses encountered by veterinarians and farriers. A hoof abscess can be defined as a localized accumulation of purulent exudate located between the germinal and keratinized layers of the epithelium, most commonly subsolar or submural .
Organisms that are responsible for a hoof abscess gain entry through the hoof capsule into the inner subsolar/submural tissue where the organisms propagate and initiate the formation of an abscess. Foreign matter generally gain entry into the hoof capsule through a break or fissure in the sole-wall junction somewhere on the solar surface of the foot.
Anatomical Review Of Abscesses
A brief anatomical review of hoof capsule structures may be helpful before discussing hoof abscesses. The foot is composed of the hoof, the skin between the bulbs of the heels and all the structures within. The structures of the hoof complex comprise the hoof capsule, distal phalanx, digital cushion, ungual cartilages and deep digital flexor tendon.1 These biological structures are susceptible to trauma and are prone to various disease processes including infections and keratomas.
Will My Horse Be Ok Afterwards
Once the purulent material is released, the pressure build up in the hoof reduces and the horse is immediately more comfortable. They may need poulticing for a few days afterwards to make sure that all the infection is gone. In a simple hoof abscess, your horse should be almost sound within a few days and go on to make a full recovery.
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How Is ‘pus In The Foot’ Diagnosed
Characteristically, lameness develops suddenly, from slight to severe, over 24-48 hours, involving one leg only. When the pain is severe, the horse may sweat and blow and refuse to bear weight on the affected foot. The foot may feel warm and the pulse in the heel blood vessels may ‘bound’.
The shoe should be removed from the affected foot to allow thorough investigation and treatment. A discrete area of pain on the sole can usually be found with hoof testers or sometimes even finger pressure .
When the shoe has been removed and the sole cleaned and searched, there may be signs of a puncture wound, crack or area of discoloration at the white line, corresponding to the area of pain. Pressure from hoof testers may cause pus to ooze from the wound. Further searching with a hoof knife usually results in an ooze or spurt of pus and/or gas from the abscess, initially painful but subsequently resulting in dramatic improvement.
Where the abscess cannot be located immediately, the foot should be poulticed overnight, to help the abscess to ‘ripen’ and the foot to soften, before trying again to find the abscess. If the abscess still cannot be found, a radiographic examination of the foot may be made to look for a pocket of pus/gas and to rule out other possibilities, e.g., fractures of the bones in the foot.
Establishing A Drainage Tract
An abscess with an obvious drainage track that is free of debris may be treated more easily than one without an established drainage route.
A veterinarian and/or farrier may for the treatment of abscesses where proper drainage is not present.
In some horses, the infection may be present deep within their hoof if it has migrated beneath the sole or further behind the wall away from the sole wall junction or white line.
A veterinarian or farrier may need to establish drainage in a horizontal plane by using a small probe.
Caution must be taken to ensure no further damage to the hoof occurs if a drainage tract needs to be established.
An additional drainage tract should never be created in the sole adjacent to an existing tract as this could lead to problems including hemorrhage and infection in the coffin bone.
Getting The Most From Antibiotic Use In Horses
The bacteria in a horses environment can number in the billions per square inch. Fortunately, most are harmless, living in the soil and water and minding their own business. Others are do-gooders, living on a horses skin, in the respiratory system, and in the gastrointestinal tract, where they help safeguard and complement the immune system. In the gastrointestinal tract they aid in digestion as well.
Of course, not all bacteria are harmless. A small number of species, called pathogens, consistently cause disease if given a chancewhen a horses structural defenses and/or his cell and chemical defenses are breached. Also, normally benign bacteria sometimes become infectious if given the opportunity. For example, the coliform bacteria, which are found in manure, can get into a fresh wound within seconds, and given time, these organisms will set up shop and actively grow and reproduce.
Your horses immune system is capable of taking on and neutralizing most bacterial infections on its own. But the inflammatory process can do collateral damage to healthy tissues. Plus, some infections and diseases can quickly grow out of control and produce devastating consequences, such as septic arthritis.
But sometimes, more help is needed. Fortunately, veterinarians can choose from a wide array of antibiotic drugsagents that can kill bacteria or impede their metabolism or multiplication to assist in fighting infection.
Dont Obsess Over A Hoof Abscess
Identify and treat this common ailment with advice from a vet.
Many horse owners have had the following experience: you put your perfectly healthy horse up for the night and the next morning, He walks out of the stall three-legged lame. A nightmare scenario, right? Whoa, there. It may not be as bad as it appears if your veterinarian or farrier determines the problem is a hoof abscess. Hoof abscesses are a frequent occurrence in horses, and although they can seem dramatic, they are relatively straightforward to manage.
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How Can I Harden My Horses Hooves
A: You can use a hoof hardener to help keep your horses hooves healthy and strong.
An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in the tissue around a wound or injury. If you notice an abscess on your horses hoof, it could be caused by any number of things, including puncture wounds, lacerations, and even injuries from other horses. Reference: horse hoof abscess heel bulb.
- how long to bandage hoof abscess
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- can you ride a horse with an abscess
How Can ‘pus In The Foot’ Be Prevented
You should pick out and examine your horses’ feet every day. Make sure that your horses’ feet are regularly trimmed and shod, by a competent farrier, to prevent hoof cracks.
Treat all puncture wounds, either nail pricks or other accidental injuries, by cleaning them and applying an antibiotic foot spray and poulticing, where necessary, without delay.
Always call your veterinarian to investigate lameness during their early stages, to try to prevent complications such as under-run sole and tracking to the coronary band.
Caution Make sure that your horses are always fully vaccinated against tetanus, an invariably fatal infection that can gain access through hoof injuries. Please see our handout on Tetanus.
The degree of lameness should improve rapidly within 12-24 hours after the abscess is opened and the pus is drained. If this is not the case there may be a more serious problem, requiring more extensive investigations.
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Finding The Pain Source
Your veterinarian will look at your horses history and do a lameness exam. A lameness exam will make sure there are no broken bones or other injuries. They will use hoof testers to pinch parts of the foot and find the source of pain. They may find a crack or drain track after cleaning the hoof and removing the old sole.
If your veterinarian cant find a drain track, they may take radiographs to look for gas within the hoof. This will also help rule out other causes of lameness.
Identifying Which Bacteria To Target With Antibiotic Treatment
If youre like me, when your horse gets sick you go into warrior mode. You call the veterinarian hoping that a magic bullet will quickly make your horse better. Its never that easy.
To determine the best treatment for your horses problem, your veterinarian will first do a complete examination. He will listen to your horses heart, lungs and gut and get a rectal temperature. He may also draw blood to see if your horse has a high white blood count and a fibrinogen deficiency, telltale signs of systemic infection. If your horses history and signs point strongly toward a particular bacterial disease, such as Potomac horse fever, your veterinarian may go ahead and prescribe drugs known to be effective against the organism that causes it.
However, if your horse is in real danger, and your veterinarian suspects a bacterial disease but is unsure of the specific organism involved and/or the location of the infection, he may at first prescribe a broad-spectrum antibioticone that is effective against many types of bacteria and that functions well in many areas and environments in the body. This allows treatment to start quickly, but its a shotgun approach, best used only when the enemy and location are not yet known and when the disease is severe. Broad-spectrum antibiotics are often effective, but they must be used with caution because, in addition to the pathogens, they can kill the beneficial bacteria in a horses gut, which may cause serious diarrhea.
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Under Pressure Discovering A Hoof Abscess
Submitted by EasyCare Product Specialist, Kelsey Lobato.
An abscess is a bacterial infection of the connective tissues between the hoof wall and the sole of the hoof. Abscesses can be triggered from a number of causes, such as a bruised sole, poor trim job from your farrier, or even a change in weather, such as going from extreme heat to damp conditions. Once the abscess has established itself in the hoof, the horse begins to show signs of mild to severe lameness. Each horse can react differently when dealing with the abscess and each abscess case can be different.
Since it is impossible for a horse to move without bearing weight on each leg, the constant pressure on an infected hoof causes mild to harsh pain and can advance the infection. As the horse bears weight on the exposed area, the bacteria travels up into the hoof cavity. The immune system sets off an inflammatory reaction in the area, causing a strong digital pulse and hot spot. White blood cells begin to surround and kill the bacteria in the surrounding tissue. These white blood cells produce the discharge that generally accompanies abscesses.
To the inexperienced eye, abscesses can look like shoulder injuries, hock injuries, hip or back injuries. Horses can limp lightly or be dead lame. They can pop suddenly then go away without notice or they can gradually increase in pressure creating a panicky situation.
Fighting Infections With Antibiotics
Because of fears about developing antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, antibiotics are under ever-increasing scrutiny today. This is a valid concern, but it’s important not to lose sight of how critical these drugs are. Let’s consider how antibiotics work and the role they can play in keeping your horse healthy.
Just What are Antibiotics? Antibiotics belong to the class of drugs called antimicrobials, which also includes agents that can kill viruses, protozoa, and fungi. Antibiotics either directly kill bacteria or they inhibit their growth and multiplication.
Antibiotics that kill bacteria are termed bacteriocidal. Those that only inhibit the growth of these microbials are called bacteriostatic. Both can be effective, but as a rule the bacteriocidal drugs work more quickly and need to be given for shorter time periods than the bacteriostatic antibiotics.
Many of the antibiotics we use are similar or identical to chemicals that bacteria produce themselves. They excrete these chemicals to kill off their competition. In fact, this is partly how the “friendly” bacteria in the bowel protect from infections like Salmonella.
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