How to treat Hoof Abscess in Horses
When asked how to treat hoof abscess, I recommend using an Animalintex hoof pack to draw the infection from the hoof capsule. Abscesses will usually resolve themselves given enough time, however, it is far better to be proactive because:
- The hoof abscess will usually resolve quickly if the abscess is poulticed and drained.
- The poulticed abscess is more likely to be drawn out through the ground bearing surface. If left to resolve itself, an abscess will generally blow out the coronary band. An abscess venting through the top of the coronary band damages the entire hoof.
Animalintex packs are the most convenient way to draw the pus to the surface to using an isotonic solution. It is preferable to the traditional “hoof soaks” which call for repeated, lengthy immersions of the whole foot because:
- multiple hoof soakings water logs the foot. This will compromise the already weakened foot. Using a warm, damp poultice is a better alternative than repeated, lengthy soaks.
- The pack can be left on for 24 hours at a time.
- Getting a horse to stand in a soak is difficult unless you have a special boot.
- If the abscess does drain, it will be evident if the spent hoof pack is inspected.
Animalintex is at my local Tractor Supply Company for under $15. You will also need:
- Vet wrap or elasticon
- Duct or Gorilla tape
- wire brush
If Animalintex is not available, one part epsom salt and two parts wheat bran moistened with warm water and using a diaper as a vessel is a time tested alternative.
I do not think that ichthammol is a good medication for hoof abscesses at all. It contains formaldehyde which hardens the hoof wall, making it more likely the abscess will vent through the skin at the coronary band. Again, it is much more desirable to get the abscess to vent through the bottom of the hoof. Also, it’s tarry texture and strong smell will make it impossible to tell if you have drawn the abscess out.
Elizabeth’s abscess poultice method:
1. Make a hoof-sized hash tag of tape
This will serve as the protective outer shell. Gently place this near where your lame horse is for use later.
Animalintex comes in squares and hoof shaped pieces. I think the square is the better value.
3. Dampen the Animalintex with warm water.
Don’t wet it too much or you will wash out the medicine! The moistened Animalintex pad clings to the foot making the pack easier to put on.
4. Don’t medicate the dirt! Clean the foot thoroughly with the wire brush.5. Place the t Animalintex on hoof.
6. Use Elastikon or Vet-wrap to secure the wet Animalintex.
Elastikon is more expensive because it is better.
I alternate catching the heels in a figure eight pattern and circling the perimeter of the hoof. Be careful to keep tight bandages on the hoof only. The bandage needs to be snug or it will fall off. Make sure you get a snug pull when you figure eight the heels to the toe.
7. Place duct tape square over foot and form to fit.
8. Finish by circling foot with more duct tape and put leg down.
9. Clean up edges with knife or scissors and make CERTAIN that this pack does not come above hairline to avoid cutting off the circulation to the foot.
10. Put a call in to your veterinarian, let them know you have a horse with a possible abscess.
Some vets and farriers like to cut a big hole in the hoof searching out the abscess. I do not care for this practice as
- More often than not, they do not find the abscess because it is still too deep in the hoof. It is better to continue to poultice until the pus is drawn just below the surface.
- Now the horse has a foot wound in addition to the abscess. This horse now requires weeks of stall rest and bandaging as his delicate sensitive hoof and possibly bone are now exposed to the environment.
An experienced hoof person can look and palpate the hoof and have a pretty good idea of where the “track” is. The track is the spot in the hoof where the original breach of the hoof capsule occurred and an excellent place to drain it. It is best to wait until only the slightest nick allows the pus to be expressed. I prefer allowing more time and poulticing to invading the hoof capsule in search of an abscess. It is usually not necessary to whittle the hoof until it bleeds.
Once the abscess is vented and drained , the horse will become noticeably less miserable and will continue to become more comfortable. I recommend flushing the tract with hydrogen peroxide and iodine. There may be some residual foot soreness because the hoof has been traumatized. This should steadily improve until the previous level of soundness is achieved
When the horse is non reactive to reasonable palpation of the affected area, the shoe may be reapplied and the horse may be gradually returned to work.
Hopefully “How to treat hoof abscesses in horses” helps you in your hoof care endeavors. For more information on the causes of abscessing, including information on horses with chronic hoof abscess check out Hoof Abscesses; symptoms and causes.