If you’re like me, learning of an abscess in your horse’s foot conjures up feelings of happiness and relief inside your head.
Quite honestly, I almost jump for joy when one of our veterinarians diagnoses one of our equines with an abscess. Sure, an hoof abscess means the horse is off for a while and will be unable to continue training and whatnot. But once that abscess ruptures and the sole or the coronet band of the hoof heals, the horse can pretty much go back to normal without any major life altering lameness condition.
Abscesses are a pain in the you-know-what but believe me, there are much worse hoof conditions that a horse could have. So what is a sole abscess, you ask?
Typically, abscesses are caused by a puncture in the sole from a foreign object entering the sensitive structures of the foot and inoculating these areas with bacteria. The bacteria grows and forms a pocket (abscess). Once the abscess has some time to form, the horse may appear lame and careful about how he places his hoof down. Abscesses can occur in the horse’s sole of the foot, adjacent to the frog (which are serious because of the possibility of involving the navicular bursa), at the heel bulb or higher at the coronet band.
Abscesses are generally found by placing hoof testers on the sole of the sore foot and determining which spots trigger painful responses. Vets are trained to find abscesses, however many farriers are very good at locating these painful lesions too. Through the sole, they look like dark spots and may be warm to the touch but only experienced individuals should ever try to lance an abscess.
More often than not however, the bacterial pocket cannot simply be drained from the hoof with a quick cut and instead must be drawn out of the hoof on its own. In such a case, I have often found the Ol’ Racetrack Remedy of Betadine and sugar to work wonders. Simply clean the sole of the hoof out very carefully with a hoofpick, paying close attention to the grooves of the sulci and then apply a thick poultice of Betadine and sugar (more sugar than Betadine).
Or if you can get your hands on some of this “green goo” as I like to call it, also known as Magna-Poultice from Priority Care 1, you’ll never have to mix sugar and betadine again. Magna-Poultice is an osmotic agent for external application which are essentially, epsom salts in a water soluble base. It even smells nice!
After the poultice is on, apply square gauze to the bottom of the foot, then wrap the entire foot (sole and up to the coronet band) with vetwrap. Using approximately six-inch strips of duct tape (and several of them), make a strong barrier wall on the bottom of the horse’s foot and apply tape upwards until you have reached the coronet band. Ensure you have only taped the bony structure of the hoof and no fleshy part of the lower leg, as this can lead to a lack of blood flow in this area. The duct tape should keep the poultice inside the sole, allowing it to draw out the bacteria of the abscess and prevent any moisture from reaching the infected hoof.
Another great product I have found to help keep the foot wrapped is the Hoofix Abscess Kit. This package comes complete with a boot which means there’s no mess, no duct tape, no resoaking and no wasted time. Check it out at: www.plumshadefarm.com/learn_kit.asp
Soaking the abscessed foot in warm water containing epsom salts is also another great way of drawing the bacteria out. But getting your horse to stand still while in a bucket of water is a totally different deal!