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Hoof Abscess

Hoof Abscess

We all know the term abscess and it's not one we ever want to hear!  However, hoof abscesses, also known as pus in the foot, are very common and usually easily dealt with. An abscess is caused when an infection occurs that builds up into a pocket of pus. This pocket of pus is extremely painful until the pressure is released.

Signs to Look Out For

If your horse is suddenly lame on one leg, perhaps even non-weight bearing, then it may have an abscess.

The hoof of this leg may feel hotter than the others and there maybe a detectable digital pulse towards the back end of either side of the fetlock. Your horse will be in severe pain which can lead to other clinical signs such as not eating, restlessness, depression etc.

Depending on how advanced the abscess is before it is diagnosed, you may find that the abscess will burst through the coronary band so pus will be visible.


  • Wet weather followed by a long dry period, meaning that the hoof expands and contracts rapidly

  • Horses standing in wet and muddy conditions (perfect for bacteria)

  • Puncture wounds

  • Cracks or holes in the hoof wall allowing water, dirt and bacteria in

  • Poor hoof quality

  • Infrequent farrier visits

  • Chronic laminitis

  • Uncontrolled Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), so reduced immune system


Call your vet immediately if you suspect an abscess. It is important that anything more serious, such as a fracture, is ruled out before treating an abscess. 

Your vet or farrier will remove your horse’s shoe so that they can locate the abscess. Once they have found it, they will dig the area out to drain the pus. A hole will be left so that it can continue to drain. 

The site of the abscess will then need to be kept clean and your vet or farrier will advise you on what they think is best to use.


After the initial visit you will need to poultice the hoof for a few days. For this you will need poultice material (Animalintex) soaked in hot water and bandaged to the foot. This poultice needs to be changed once a day. After a few days of wet poulticing, a dry poultice can be applied so that the hoof doesn’t become too wet and soft, but the abscess can still drain. You may need to bandage the area even after the poulticing as it will need to be kept clean until it has healed sufficiently to prevent any dirt from entering the wound.


It is virtually impossible to prevent your horse from ever getting an abscess. The only way to try and avoid it is by keeping the best standards of care for your horse and by avoiding severe wet or muddy conditions.

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