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How should a hoof abscess be treated?

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Basically, the abscess should be identified and the borders defined. Because an abscess often migrates to another part of the hoof, the extent of the abscess should be determined by radiography, which reveals a gas shadow, or by debridement and visual examination. Adequate drainage should be supplied, and antiseptic packing should be placed into the defect. Some veterinarians make a metronidazole packing to ensure coverage against anaerobic bacteria, and more treat with systemic antimicrobials, whereas others do not. Some clinicians believe that antimicrobial therapy may cause the infection to recede and become latent, only to reappear later when the drugs are discontinued. Soaking the hoof in water with a 1% betadine solution and epsom salts may help to draw out deeper-infected tracts in the hoof. If the abscess is resistive to therapy, other tracts may be present, or the horse may have osteomyelitis of the third phalanx, which requires radiographic examination for diagnosis.

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