Winter is well and truly upon us and with the wet weather also comes many equine ailments that we associate with winter. Foot abscesses are particularly common during the wetter months. Both cracks in the hoof and bruises in the sole can allow bacteria to invade the hoof capsule and form an accumulation of pus. The hoof cannot expand to relieve the pressure caused by the pus, resulting in severe lameness that is often seen. It can also be common to have heat in the hoof, an increased digital pulse and mild to moderate swelling in the lower leg.
The key to treatment is for your vet or farrier to obtain drainage through the sole of the foot and then to keep the foot clean to prevent reformation of the abscess. Abscesses will also sometimes rupture through the coronet band. Drainage will give instant relief to the horse, but it may be necessary to provide additional pain relief. Antibiotics are usually unnecessary for routine abscesses.
Prevention involves good hoof trimming and maintenance and trying to limit exposure to very wet and muddy conditions that may soften the hoof.
Did you know that horses can also get tetanus from a hoof abscess? The tetanus bacteria lives in the soil and grows well in conditions with little oxygen, such as in a hoof abscess. Another good reason to make sure your horse is up to date with vaccines at this time of year!