Hoof abscesses can occur when bacteria gets caught between the laminae and the hoof wall or sole. The bacteria create pus, which builds up and creates pressure behind the hoof wall or sole.

As the pressure builds up, the hoof abscess is the most painful right before rupture. Once the abscess has burst, the pressure is relieved and often the horse becomes immediately more comfortable.

Some abscesses may spread further into the hoof, such as the coffin bone, the navicular, or into the lower leg. This is particularly true with chronic abscesses that are left untreated or cleaned. If these structures become infected, the treatment can be much longer, more expensive, and could result in something more permanent. 

After the abscess has burst, the focus should be on growing out a healthy hoof. The damage from an abscess can take six to twelve months to grow out, and in this time, there is a weakened hoof structure. Good nutrition, herbs and feeding millet and linseed, (as found in our formula Tendon and Bone), can ensure that all regrowth is healthy and strong.

An abscess can be an indication of a deeper issue that needs to be resolved, otherwise it can become a recurrent problem. For example, horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome and laminitis are more susceptible to abscesses. If they have experienced wall separation to extreme pedal bone, they can then develop an abscess (anything from a few days to several weeks after the initial laminitis). 

Robust immune systems routinely eliminate infective and metabolic waste as part of a healthy system. A system that is overloaded with inflammation, infection or metabolic waste, has a much harder time recovering. There are many traditional treatments that have been used throughout the ages to assist the body expel toxins.

What causes a hoof abscess?

  • Conditions cycling between dry and wet
  • Incorrect shoeing
  • Internal, systemic infections
  • Management of the horse - standing in mud or unclean stalls
  • Insulin resistance case or laminitis, leading to hoof damage

Signs your horse may have an abscess

  • Mild to severe lameness
  • Digital pulse (in the affected leg)
  • Swelling in the lower limb
  • Pressure on the coronet band causes pain response

Poulticing or soaking?

A poultice or soaking can help if the hoof is very dry. Soaking boots can be incredibly helpful, but if you don’t have a boot, you can use a soft and flexible rubber bucket instead (one that won’t crack!).

A poultice consists of herbs and other ingredients made into a paste and placed directly on the skin, allowing the ingredients to transfer their benefits and draw out any toxins.

Apple Cider Vinegar can also be used for soaking due to its anti-microbial properties in a diluted 1:10 ratio with warm water.  

Manuka honey can also be added to the soaking or poultice. The antibacterial properties of honey can sterilise and clean the wound, helping to prevent infection, along with reducing the healing time and complications that can increase the risk of scarring. Due to the antibacterial properties of Manuka honey, there could be a reduction in the need to take oral antibiotics for wounds.

McDowells product

The key to clearing abscesses however lies in the breaking down of the capsule wall. The herb Red Clover. Besides being a blood cleanser, Red Clover has the specific action of thinning cyst walls so that they can leak and discharge the stored toxins back into the bloodstream. Blood-cleansing herbal teas such as Rosehips and Dandelion, can also be given while clearing abscesses.  

Our Hoof Abscess Program combines products Alleve8, Infect-A-Clear and Hoof Heel, to work together to assist in the elimination of metabolic waste, reduce pain from inflammation, aid circulation to tissue and bone, and provide support in the healing process.

These herbs have been traditionally used to reduce pain from inflammation and support in the healing process. This formulation may be used safely for both emergencies and in the long term for comfort.

The herbs in this mix have been traditionally used to stimulate the horse’s own natural elimination which may help to clear these naturally occurring metabolites thereby improving the immune system's response. A 12-week course is advised which is a full blood cycle. The tonic will need to be given continuously for a minimum of 3 weeks and can be maintained long-term if necessary.

Hoof Heel
This oil-based treatment is a mixture of herbal oils and extracts that warm and bring circulation to all tissue and bone in the area. It assists with healing both bones and ligament attachments and any other damage while improving circulation dramatically and reducing inflammation. Also assists in easing pain associated with Founder, Pedal Osteitis, Navicular Disease and Sesamoiditis.

In addition to our Hoof Abscess Program, we also recommend the below products to ensure the best possible results for your horse’s condition, and to aid in the prevention of reoccurring incidents.

Tendon and Bone
Tendon and Bone is used to promote the re-growth of attachment points and the re-tensioning of stretched or damaged ligaments. Elecampane is a stimulant to fibroblast (the most common cells of connective tissue in animals) and osteoblast (single nucleus that synthesizes bone) activity due to its allantoin content. Millet contains especially high levels of organic silica compounds as well as carbohydrates and many other minerals. It also contains high levels of magnesium and is higher in protein than most other grains. Linseed is specific nourishment for the strength and elasticity of ligaments and attachment points and is a whole feed source of Omega 3 and 6 and Linoleic acids.

Manuka Honey
High in minerals, antioxidants and bioflavonoids this potent antibacterial honey will help to enhance and protect your horse’s own defences, whilst helping to heal and reduce the scarring of wounds. Honey keeps the wound moist and supple, while its high sugar content draws moisture from the wound preventing bacteria growth and encouraging wound healing by drawing out wound toxicants.



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