Here the team at Robinsons Animal Healthcare explain what causes and abscess and why some horses are more susceptible.
Q. My horse recently developed a hoof abscess; the lameness came on suddenly, with no warning. What causes an abscess to develop and are some horses more susceptible than other?
A. Lameness that comes on suddenly is more often than not caused by an abscess and most horses will suffer from this condition at some point in their life. Thankfully, with swift treatment the horse usually recovers pretty quickly.
An abscess is a cavity containing pus, which is a collection of dead cells, bacteria, and other debris resulting from an infection. As the amount of pus increases in an abscess, it becomes painful as the hoof continually bears weight and is unable to swell.
The most common cause is a penetration injury to the hoof, which provides an entry point for bacteria to reach deep into the hoof structure and allow infection to spread, such as a nail from a loose shoe. As it can take up to two weeks for the bacteria to spread, resulting in the pus filled abscess, identifying the initial cause can be difficult.
Infection tracking up the white line is another common cause of a hoof abscess. The white line is the border where the hoof wall meets the sole, and this can become damaged and softened, allowing dirt and bacteria into the inner hoof.
Weather conditions and poor stable management can also predispose a horse to a hoof abscess, as standing in wet conditions for too long can softens the hoof and is a prime breeding ground for bacteria to thrive. Equally, dry weather can result in the hoof becoming brittle, leading to cracks and the creation of additional entry points for bacteria.
The farrier is your greatest ally in the fight against abscesses and all hoof conditions, so make sure your horse is seen regularly, every six to eight weeks.
Unfortunately, some horses seem to be more susceptible than others, for example those with weak feet or who have had a previous bout of laminitis.
Animalintex Hoof Treatment is suitable for rapid treatment of hoof conditions, especially abscesses, and is the only VMD licensed multi-layered absorbent poultice available in the UK.