Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hoof Abscesses in Horses - Full Article

by: Brian W. Fitzgerald, DVM
September 01 2009, Article # 9530

The scenario is all too familiar for many horse owners ... yesterday your horse was sound, but today you find him crippled, with no apparent injury! What could have happened? Odds are this horse has a hoof abscess. Sooner or later, nearly all horse owners will encounter this problem. Fortunately, most horses make a full recovery with prompt treatment.

Hoof Abscesses Defined

Hoof abscesses occur when bacteria get trapped between the sensitive laminae (the tissue layer that bonds the hoof capsule to the coffin bone) and the hoof wall or sole. The bacteria create exudate (pus), which builds up and creates pressure behind the hoof wall or under the sole. This pressure can be become extremely painful.

Although most commonly seen during the wet winter and spring months, hoof abscesses can plague horses year-round. Moisture in the environment can soften regions of the foot and make it easier for bacteria to get trapped inside. Extremely dry conditions can cause brittle, cracked feet. The abscess-causing bacteria enter the foot through hoof cracks, by traveling up the white line, through penetrating wounds to the foot, and even by "close" horseshoeing nails. Deep bruising might also trigger abscesses.

Diagnosing a Hoof Abscess

While a hoof abscess generally takes several days to develop, most horses don't show any clinical signs until the pressure becomes so great that severe lameness is evident...

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