SubscribeGift a Sub
Enable cache 100

Hoof Abscess

Q. If I suspect that my horse has a hoof abscess, what first-aid protocol should I follow while waiting for the veterinarian to arrive?

A. Usually, horses with hoof abscesses are severely lame, meaning lame at a walk (grade 4 out of 5 lameness). In most cases the lameness has an acute onset; therefore, the horse should be confined to a stall immediately. Describe these symptoms to your veterinarian, and arrange an exam as soon as possible.

To rule out a serious injury or even fracture (which would essentially lead to similar symptoms), you can clean the affected leg and hoof with a brush and a hoof pick or wash it with a hose. While doing so, examine the limb for any lacerations, swollen, hot or painful areas.  If you are unsure, compare the questionable limb to the opposing leg. Taking a closer look at the hoof, search for wounds or draining tracts around the heel and the coronary band. Also look at the sulci of the frog and the sole to check for foreign bodies (gravel, nails, et cetera) or defects.

Your veterinarian will perform a more thorough examination (including hoof testers, comparing digital pulsation, increased warmth of the foot).  The horse should not receive any anti-inflammatory drugs prior to this examination. Should the problem turn out to be a hoof abscess, opening the abscess with a hoof knife to provide adequate drainage usually takes away most of the pain.  Systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs are not part of a standard treatment for an “uncomplicated” hoof abscess.

Abscess first aid in review:

1. Put your horse in a stall.

2. Clean the leg and hoof of the leg your horse doesn’t want to put weight on, and check for injuries.

3. Call your veterinarian and describe the situation (how lame the horse is, about the onset of the lameness, any noticeable injuries, last trimming/shoeing, et cetera).

4. Do not give your horse anti-inflammatory drugs (bute, Banamine, et cetera) or start soaking the foot before your vet has had a chance to look at it.

Christoph Koch, DMV 
University of Wisconsin-Madison
School of Veterinary Medicine

View Comments

Recent Posts

ASPCA’s Right Horse Adoptable Horse: He’s a King Kite

Welcome to Horse Illustrated’s weekly installment of the Right Horse Adoptable Horse of the Week, offered in partnership with the…

5 days ago

2022 FEI World Eventing Championships – Conclusion

Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy – The Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team has officially secured qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games,…

7 days ago

2022 FEI World Eventing Championships – Kickoff

The Lazio region in the picturesque countryside of Italy southeast of Rome is hosting the 2022 FEI World Eventing and…

1 week ago

Nikovian Equestrian Enters the Ring

It is amazing what a little frustration can make someone do. Madison Smith, founder of Nikovian Equestrian, never met a horse…

1 week ago

US Equestrian Announces Land Rover U.S. Eventing Squad and Alternates for 2022 FEI Eventing World Championship

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian is pleased to announce the combinations selected to represent the Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team…

1 week ago

US Equestrian Announces Land Rover U.S. Driving Team for 2022 FEI Driving World Championship for Four-in-Hand Horses

Lexington, Ky. – US Equestrian is pleased to announce the two athletes selected to represent the Land Rover U.S. Driving Team…

2 weeks ago