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Foot Abscess

Foot abscesses in horses are incredibly common. It should be suspected in any sudden onset lameness in the horse. It is a localised bacterial infection within the hoof. Pressure will build up causing the horse pain resulting in lameness.

Clinical signs:

  • Typically a horse will present with a toe touching lameness (see picture below)

This horse had a foot abscess, note that it is toe touching lame on its right hind leg

  • They will usually have an increased digital pulse indicating an increased blood flow to the foot
  • They are usually reactive to HOOF TESTERS

The abscess may develop as a result of stepping on a stone or as a result of a nail after being shod. It may also result from poor hoof quality and a weakened white line (this is where the wall of the foot meets the sole which is a natural area of weakness). Dirt and bacteria will enter any defect and may result in an infection.

A vet or farrier will check the horse’s foot with hoof testers and hopefully be able to isolate where the abscess is. It will then be able to drain from the bottom of the foot. In some cases it may burst out at the top of the hoof (coronary band) or heel bulb, as it will take the line of least resistance.


  • If the horse has a shoe on it will be removed
  • A hole where the abscess is will be opened up using a hoof knife
  • You will be advised to ‘hot tub’ the horse’s foot

This involves the horse’s foot being placed in a bucket of warm water with Epsom salts (Magnesium Sulphate) for 10-15 minutes

  • You will then be advised to POULTICE the horse’s foot

This will encourage any further infection to drain away

There are many poultices that can be used including:

  • Animalintex®
  • Sugar and Iodine
  • Magnesium Sulphate
  • Brown Bread
  • Bran

Animalintex® is the most common poultice material to be used. It is soaked in hot water and fitted to the foot with a soft waterproof bandage.


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