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Foot abscess in horses

An increase in foot problems in horses can be expected during extended wet weather. When the hoof is wet for extended periods, softening of the tissues will predispose the area to problems. Foreign matter (sand, gravel, silt, etc.) or bacteria can gain entry to the hoof and cause infection in the soft tissue through:

  • a separation in the white line (sole-wall interface)
  • penetration of the sole (bottom of the foot)
  • hoof wall cracks
  • old nail holes.

Usually, the horse will suddenly become lame, which can vary from mild to non-weight bearing lameness and the hoof will be hot to touch. If left untreated, the abscess can burst through at the coronet.

Owners can reduce the likelihood of hoof infections (hoof abscesses in particular) by taking basic precautions, such as:

  • moving horses from flood-affected or muddy areas. Horses need to have firm dry footings where their hooves can dry out
  • keeping hooves clean, including soles, of mud and manure. Disinfecting hooves that have been exposed to flood water or mud may also be indicated. A disinfectant like diluted chlorhexidine would be suitable
  • carrying out proper hoof care, concentrating on a strong healthy white line. If you are unfamiliar with hoof care, obtain the services of a farrier or veterinarian.

Seek prompt veterinary attention for lameness in horses.