An unsound, hobbling horse can often be the result of a nasty hoof abscess. If bacteria has the chance to enter the hoof through a puncture wound or some kind of trauma, pus can begin to form and make your horse very uncomfortable. In most cases, hoof abscess are easy to treat, but they can also be prevented through proper care.
What can cause a hoof abscess?
- A sharp object, such as a nail or rock, penetrating the hoof.
- Nails from a recently shod horse that are too close to the delicate inner structures can become a pathway for bacteria.
- Wet, dirty conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Frequent changes in conditions from very wet to extremely dry.
Once the bacteria has entered the hoof, you can expect a number of different symptoms. Your horse may show mild lameness or be unable to put any weight on the foot, depending on the severity of the infection. Heat and swelling normally accompany abscesses, as well. A black spot of the infection along with a drain tract may be noticed if the hoof is trimmed back.
The best treatment option for a hoof abscess is to open the wound and let it drain. A veterinary may be needed to create a hole, preferably in the sole. Once the abscess is exposed, a medicated poultice pad is applied to keep the foot draining. A waterproof cover, such as a diaper and duct tape, is used to keep out dirt.
Many horse owners choose to soak the hoof with Epsom salt in order to soften it and allow the abscess to rupture. This is advisable only in the beginning, as frequent soaking can weaken the hoof.
Once the pus is released and drained for 48 hours, your horse should show a lot of improvement. A hoof bandage is needed until the foot is dry and the drainage has stopped.
Keep your horse protected by maintaining routine farrier care. Pick his hooves out on a regular basis and make sure his stall is clean and dry. To increase hoof strength, you can apply a dressing. Hoof abscesses can be very uncomfortable. The best approach is to prevent the situation altogether.