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Hoof Abscess Diagnosis and Care

August 11, 2021


How do I tell if my horse has a hoof abscess?

The pain of a hoof abscess is usually severe, about 4 on a scale of 5. So if your horse comes out limping or walking on his toe, follow these steps:


          1. Run your hand over the sore leg and hoof for signs of injury: Look for cuts, bruises, heat and swelling.

          2. Feel the hoof—does it feel warmer than usual or compared to the other feet?

          3. Check the pulse near the pastern- does it feel strong and bounding when compared the other leg?

          4. Clean and examine the bottom of the hoof for puncture wounds or dark holes on the sole.

          5. Look to see if the pastern or heel bulbs and coronary band are swollen.


If any of these symptoms are present, call your veterinarian.

How do I treat a hoof abscess?

The best treatment strategy for a hoof abscess is to open it and let it drain which should be done by a qualified veterinarian.


If the horse is shod generally the shoe will be pulled.   Once the shoe is off, hoof testers can be used to help find the location of the abscess.  Whenever possible vets like to drain an abscess through the sole. This method works well for two reasons:  First, the crack or puncture that can lead to an abscess is generally in the sole and can be followed to the abscess. Second, this puts a hole beneath the abscess so gravity can help pull out the pus.  


Some abscesses will even pop on their own, often after traveling up the hoof to the coronary band or heel bulbs where the wall is thinner and easier to break through.  Soaking in Epsom salts and applying poultice can also be effective in causing an abscess to break open.

After the abscess has broken you want to keep the wound open to continue draining. If the wound closes over at the surface, but infection is still present inside, these are the perfect conditions for an abscess to re-occur.


Keep your horse in a clean, dry stall. If you only have turn out, make sure it is clean, dry and not too large. The horse should feel immediate relief by having the abscess drained and the draining process should last 3-4 days.


At this stage, the most important thing is to keep the open area clean and dry. In the old days people used duct tape and diapers but Hoof Wraps Brand® has come up with ingenious Hoof Wrap Bandage that is simple to use and will keep your horse's hoof clean and dry hoof up to 2 weeks. The Hoof Wraps Bandage makes the daily care and cleaning of the drainage opening far easier and less time consuming. Check your bandage and dressing every 25 hours or if you notice it getting loose. While your horse will experience relief within 24 hours, it will take several weeks for the hoof to heal properly.

Tips to Avoid Hoof Abscess

  • Keep your stalls and turnouts clean

  • Schedule regular farrier visits

  • Clean muck, mud, sand and debris from hoofs daily

  • Avoid rocky terrain

  • Apply disinfectant like SteriHoof if you suspect an infection is brewing


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