When you look at a lame horse, the first area to check is the foot. We see many lame horses at our practice and many owners believe the lameness is in the shoulder or the hip. However, 85% of lameness cases are caused by a problem in the foot. There are multiple problems that can occur in the horse's foot and today I am going to talk about the most common foot infection, which is a subsolar or submural abscess. These abscesses present as an acute and usually moderate to severe lameness. They are from infection that has entered the sole with to a foreign body, such as a nail or sharp thorn, or some dirt may have entered the white line. Abscesses are common in horses that have foundered because the white line of the hoof is enlarged and allows easy access to dirt and bacteria. Also, horses with hoof cracks commonly develop abscesses as bacteria enter through the crack.
Some of these abscesses are easy to diagnosis as just cleaning the foot and exploring possible tracts may allow pus to escape, so all that is necessary is to thoroughly explore the infected area and allow it to drain. We wrap the foot in an Animalintex poultice pad for 3 days and then continue to wrap until the area has filled in, which usually takes 3 to 4 weeks. We do not soak feet anymore as it is not necessary and the pad is much easier. Some of these abscesses can be difficult to diagnose and will make you think there is another problem. X-rays can be helpful to find abscesses in some cases but others you have to poultice the foot and check for drainage every day. Many times you will also have swelling in the pastern and above the fetlock if there is a hoof abscess.