Healing a Horse Abscess
As the bacteria in the hoof capsule reproduces, the horseís internal defenses set off a reaction that eventually results in exudates and gas forming, leading to inflammation and causes the dermal (sensitive) and epidermal (horny) sole to separate. This causes intense pain from the pressure and the tearing apart of the sole and other regions as the abscess moves through the foot.
The pain a horse suffers during these episodes can be compared to what you feel if you smash the end of a fingernail and it fills with blood. If you have ever done that, you can see why horses with abscesses are lame to the point that you may think they have a broken leg.
When a horse has an abscess, the common treatment is to drain the abscess, if possible, and have the owner soak the hoof in Epsom salts and warm water for 15 minutes, twice daily. Not all horses appreciate having their hooves soaked, and warm water is not always easily obtained in some areas where horses live.
On top of that treatment, if the abscess has been opened from the bottom of the foot, there is a protection aspect that requires either a hospital plate or constant bandaging by the customer. It can be a lot of work treating a horse with an abscess.
I have been shoeing for a very long time, and it is pretty rare when I get excited about a new way of doing things. Several months ago, I was introduced to a product called an Epsom Salts Poultice, made by a company called Kaeco. This poultice is designed to be applied to a foot with an abscess and takes the place of the whole soaking thing.
That sounded great to me, but Kaeco took it to the next level, and came out with an abscess kit that can save farriers and horse owners the trouble of dealing with an abscess the old fashioned way.
Begin by finding the abscess in the foot. The horse in these photos had been sore long enough that the leg had swollen to the knee. Christine Martin, DVM, had applied medication to the leg before I got there (thatís why the leg is Vetrapped).
First trim and knife the foot (FIGURE 1) to find the injury on the sole. Trim the foot normally and cut the sole away over the abscess.
Now you can open your prepackaged abscess kit. It contains a black, foam rubber pad that can be cut to the size of the foot to add protection (FIGURE 2). Place it on the trimmed hoof and scribe a general outline of the foot (FIGURE 3). I made my mark with my fingernail.
Once you mark the pad, it can be cut with your nippers or a knife (FIGURES 4 and 5) or even a heavy pair of scissors.
Next apply the Epsom salts poultice (FIGURES 6 and 7). There is also some cotton batting in the abscess kit. Place it over the wound that is covered with the Epsom salts (FIGURE 8).
I placed the foam rubber pad over the cotton and poultice, but the manufacturer recommends first wrapping the foot with Coflex, then placing the pad, before wrapping the foot again with another layer of Coflex. By wrapping the foot after I put the pad on, there is a risk of the pad slipping around on the foot. It has not been a problem for me, but I can see where it could be.
At this point, the whole foot is wrapped with Coflex flexible wrap (FIGURE 9). Next, you put the Velcro boot on the hoof.
Place the boot on the ground and follow the numbers (FIGURE 10). This is some of the toughest Velcro I have ever felt, and these boots stay on well. Place the foot on the boot, and attach the Velcro tabs according to the numbers on the boot (FIGURES 11 to 14). Once we finished applying the boot, the horse was more comfortable and was placing weight on the foot (FIGURE 15). The horse should have the Epsom salts changed every other day, and the boot reapplied. I returned to change the dressing on this horse 3 days later. The customer was going to change the poultice and wrap on the second day, but I wanted pictures for this article and did not have time to get there on the second day. There was a lot of reduction in swelling of the leg. The boot was still tightly attached (FIGURES 16 and 17) and the horse was much more comfortable.
I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the foot and abscess area were after 3 days (FIGURES 18 and 19). The foam-rubber pad had compressed, mimicking the shape of the foot and provided extra protection to the damaged sole (FIGURE 20).
As treatment continues, simply repeat the procedure as needed.
You will be amazed how well this product works. Not only is it easier than the traditional method, but also it seems more effective. Most of the abscesses we have dealt with in this way have cleared up in half the time they would have using the traditional method of daily soaks.
My customers have been happy to have an option that is much easier than what they expected with doctoring an abscess. I hope you have as much success treating abscesses with this kit as we have.