Recapping Abscess-Schmabcess


Recently, Jackie LacBrecque wrote into My Stable Life with a question garnered from my Abscess-Schmabscess blog, which can be found here:

QUESTION: How long does an abscess usually take to come to the point of draining? How often do you re-apply the poultice? The mare I have has problems with reoccurring abscesses. What would cause that?

So, I summoned the help of Dr. Suzon Schaal to tackle this question. Here\’s what she said:

Q. How long does an abscess usually take to come to the point of draining?

A. This will depend on the location and severity of the abscess. Some abscesses will break and drain out the sole of the foot, while others will travel up the white line and burst out the coronary band or at the heels. Some abscesses can break in a few days, whereas others can take weeks. If possible, it is best to have an abscess opened and drained out the sole by a veterinarian or farrier as this will minimize the damage to the hoof, minimize the healing time as well as minimize the discomfort to the horse.

Occasionally after an abscess has been opened or has broke and drained, the horse will appear to be doing better, but then will get worse again because the infection has tracked to a different spot in the foot. In these cases, the abscess will require further paring out to establish drainage.

Q. How often do you re-apply the poultice?

A. This again will depend on the severity of the abscess. Some will need to be soaked in hot water and epsom salts daily and therefore need the poultice re-applied daily. In other cases, the poultice may be left on for 2-5 days at a time and changed when the bandage material is wearing through or is dirty.

Q. The mare I have problems with, the abscess is  reoccurring. What would cause that?

A reoccurring abscess should always be examined by a veterinarian and they will determine if the foot requires an x-ray. There may be a foreign body in the foot such as a nail, rock, or piece of wire that is not allowing the abscess to heal.  Also, sometimes the coffin bone can become infected by an abscess  or a piece of coffin bone can be chipped off (from a traumatic injury or secondary to infection). The dead piece of bone is called a sequestrum and acts like a foreign body, causing a continued source of infection until it is removed.

Additionally, keratomas can be the cause of reoccurring abscesses. These are benign, keratin-containing soft tissue masses that can develop in the hoof. They can be diagnosed on x-ray and once removed the abscessing resolves.

Dr. Schaal is an Equine Veterinarian based out of Okotoks Animal Clinic, in Okotoks, AB.  When not working she can be found with my horses  and competing in working cow horse competitions. (She is also a 3-time NRCHA World Non-Pro Champion!)



1 thought on “Recapping Abscess-Schmabcess”

  1. Susan Kauffmann, WHR Health Editor

    My understanding, having talked about this subject with several hoof researchers, is that there is no evidence that soaking or poulticing makes any difference in the progression or resolution of an abscess. In fact, one expert recently told me that he believes the continual application of moisture only promotes a favorable environment for the proliferation of bacteria and fungi. Logically, one would think that softening the hoof would help the abscess “pop through” , but this may not actually be the case. As Dr. Schaal said, some take days while others take weeks. I have come to believe that they will take the time they take, regardless of what we do or don’t do. I’ve soaked in the past, but won’t do it again.

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