Hoof abscesses are very common in horses. They are the most common reasons behind a sudden lameness in horses. Abscesses occur from bacteria that get into the foot and infect sensitive structures of the foot. Symptoms of an abscess other than lameness are sensitivity to hoof testers or percussion, lower leg swelling and increased digital pulse.
Abscesses can erupt on their own from either the sole of the hoof or the coronary band. Your vet may be able to locate the site of infection and drain it themselves. If not, your vet might instruct you to work on the abscess at home. When treating an abscess, the goal is to draw the infection out of the hoof while keeping the area clean to prevent reinfection.
Soaking the hoof multiple times a day will cause the abscess to erupt and drain, however this soaking can weaken the hoof wall. Instead, try applying a drawing agent such as ichthamol or Epsoms salts under the hoof bandage to pull the infection out. In order to do this you will need a flexible bucket (grain buckets work great), Epsom salts, poultice pads or iodine, sheet cotton or diaper, elastic bandage, and duct tape. Here is how to do it:
- Combine warm water and Epsom salts in a flexible bucket until no more salt can be dissolved.
- Soak the entire hoof up to the coronary band in the salt water. This will help draw out the infection and encourage the abscess to erupt.
- Soak a poultice pad in hot water. If you do not have a poultice pad, create poultice with Epsom salts and iodine.
- Place the pad over the sole of the hoof. If you are not using the poultice pad, pack the Epsom salts and iodine paste into the hoof so the entire sole is covered.
- Wrap the hoof in sheet cotton or a diaper.
- Secure the cotton/diaper by wrapping it with the elastic bandage.
- Cover the entire bandage with duct tape for durability.
This process will not only help to draw out the infection but it will also keep the hoof clean and protected from dirt and debris to avoid reinfection.
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For more information on treating hoof abscesses, visit: http://www.equipodiatry.com/footsoak.htm