Hoof Abscesses in horses are a common occurrence and can be extremely painful. It is the most common cause of sudden onset lameness, sometimes non-weight bearing on the toe. Owners often presume their horses have a fractured limb or injury from kicking.


The common cause is dirt and bacteria being pushed up the white line of the hoof. This is likely to happen during wet conditions as the sole becomes softer. Sub-solar abscesses can also develop as a result of trauma to the sole, through bruising or direct penetration.

As well as showing varying degrees of lameness, a horse with an abscess will be sensitive to hoof testers or percussion and may have lower leg swelling. Diagnosis is fairly simple with straight forward abscesses. The affected foot may have heat in it and a stronger digital pulse. With more complicated under-run soles, x-rays may be indicated to track where the pus is heading.

The key to treatment is achieving drainage, preferably at the sole or white line margin. If left untreated, inflammatory fluid can track up the white line and burst out at the coronary band. This results in prolonged healing and disruption of new hoof growth.

Our vets are trained to perform the safe drainage procedure without damaging the sensitive structures surrounding the abscess. Once drainage is established we use poulticing therapy and then iodine treatment to make sure no pockets of fluid are left and that the new sole has had a chance to keratinize, or harden.

Your horse will receive sufficient pain relief. Franklin Vets does not advise you to carry out the procedure yourself and recommends that you are up to date with Tetanus injections to provide protection at the time of treatment.