Horse owners can be scared of hoof abscesses. They can cause severe lameness and sudden death. A worried owner may find a three-legged horse or pony in pain and panic when it happens.
Fallon said that a horse suffering from a foot abscess might look like he has a broken leg. It’s difficult to tell if the abscess is in the hind leg or higher up–in the hip or stifle–because they often show the same kind of lameness. A hoof abscess can be easily identified in the front leg by the horse’s willingness to extend or flex the fetlock, carpus (knee), elbow, and shoulder joints. You may notice a decreased range of motion in the horse’s upper joints.
Fallon said that abscesses could be caused by changes in soil moisture or environmental conditions. The white line that runs along the solar surface will become open or close. This can compromise the quality of the “peripli” (the waxy hoof coating that extends from the coronet bands and is similar to a human fingernail’s cuticle) and hoof wall.
Fallon stated that there are signs to watch for if you suspect a hoof infection.
Feel the heat and pulse in your hoof
Fallon stated that even if you don’t have hoof testers, there are still signs you can look out for. These include heat and pulse in the feet. Fallon also said that your veterinarian could show you how to evaluate the foot for digital pulses or increased heat in the hoof capsule or wall.
Get a set of hoof testers
A pair of hoof testers can be used to put pressure on the sole and hoof, which can help locate an abscess.
Fallon said, “Your veterinarian or farrier can show you how hoof testers are applied. Anyone who owns a lot of horses should have a set and be able to use them.” They are easy to use, inexpensive, and can be used to assess the problem.
Remove all hair from the hoof and inspect it carefully
“Don’t leave any foreign objects or stones in the frog or the skin.
Fallon stresses that if a nail or another hard object punctures your hoof, you should not remove it.
Fallon stated that a veterinarian should know how far the nail extends into the foot and whether it could touch any important structures such as the coffin joint, navicular bursa, or coffin joint.
Soak your foot
If the horse is still lame after cleaning the feet, it’s time to soak his hoof.
Fallon stated that he likes warm water, Betadine (r) (povidone-iodine), and Epsom salts. You can also use commercially available products.
Fallon recommends soaking the foot in warm water for 15-30 minutes and then wrapping the hoof in a pack using an ichthammol or poultice.
If necessary, medicate
Fallon stated that if the horse is suffering from severe pain, it is worth giving him a gram or two of bute to ease the pain. If the horse has had a night of bute, he can still be diagnosed the next day.
Is a hoof problem considered an emergency?
As noted, puncture wounds to the hoof require immediate medical attention.
Fallon stated that any injury to the heel bulbs or the hoof walls themselves–such trauma that has broken the hoof wall or a laceration or tears to the heel bulb or coronet band- needs immediate attention. Fallon stated that any lacerations below or around the fetlock joints require immediate attention because there isn’t much soft tissue to protect them and some important structures in the region.
Hoof bruises, which cause blood to pool at the spot, can lead to bacteria and subsequent abscesses. Hoof injuries can also cause trauma to the frog. Abscesses can also be caused by cracks or defects in the hoof structure or the white line of the hoof.
Fallon said that abscesses could be caused by a mixture of both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria. The pain is not caused by inflammation. It’s the accumulation of pus and gas inside the hoof capsule. If they cannot drain the abscess and get rid of the pus, it can cause severe damage to the hoof wall and hoof capsule.
Untreated abscess conditions can lead to a long and painful recovery process. Fallon explained that it could spread to the sole or toe and reach the coronet band. It can take a while and cause a lot of pain for the horse. In many cases, it can cause permanent damage to the coronet band.
Protection against abscesses
Remove rocks and debris and examine the hoof closely regularly.
Fallon stated that some management tips could reduce the likelihood of developing abscesses. These tips include
- Routine farrier care. Fallon stated, “This is crucial because otherwise the hoof wall will split and splay and allow infections to track up to the soft tissue structures.”
- Avoid extreme wet or dry hoof conditions. Fallon stated that while wet conditions can cause more damage to the peripli and pull them away, dry conditions tend to make the hoof crackle more and expose the white line. Fallon said that if they are stomping on flies, they can damage the hoof wall, potentially splitting the foot open and opening up that white line.
He said, “Bedding on shavings can be drying to the hoof.” “Bedding on straw or hay doesn’t dry the hoof as much.
- Use hoof dressings. Fallon said you could use many hoof dressings daily or multiple times per week if your horse does not have a high-quality hoof. There are many great supplements available, including ones that contain biotin or other trace minerals that can improve the quality and integrity of the horny laminae which creates the hoof capsule.
Fallon explained that petroleum products often don’t perform as well as products made with natural resins like pine tar or turpentine. I’ve tried products with lanolin and beeswax that are superior. Petroleum can be irritating and drying.
- Consider shoeing. Fallon suggested that owners consider shoeing barefoot horses with a poor hoofs. Steel shoes, in my opinion, are better than aluminium shoes for preserving the hoof’s quality and integrity.
- Look for potential problems in your horse’s pasture or paddock. Also, pick up any rocks in the turnout area.
Fallon stated that it is common to find #2 rock around the waterers on farms that produce multiple abscesses per year. Or maybe they have wood chips in their gateway to keep it from getting too muddy. But maybe the chips are getting stuck in the feet or frog’s sulci. There have been pastures that were once cattle pastures. Instead of pulling them out, they just tore the steel fence posts off.
- Horses that are more vulnerable to infection should be monitored. Horses with chronic laminitis, low-quality hooves or white hooves are more likely to develop a hoof abscess. This is especially true if they live in a more likely environment. Fallon said, “You can learn to manage those horses.” Supplements, shoeing and hoof dressings are all possible to help.