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likely an abscess?

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  • likely an abscess?

    I was gone over the weekend and came home Sunday evening to find the right hind of my 5 year old TB poofy. Nothing drastic, and given that he's the king of cuts and resulting cellulitis (and I was in a hurry), I didn't lunge him. I just wrapped him, gave him his E/W/T/WNV vaccine (the purpose of my visit), put him on no turnout for the next day, and went home.

    Monday night, he was slightly less swollen, thanks to the wraps I'm sure, and I had time to take him out on the lunge line. He was slightly off at the trot, but nothing spectacular, so I just re-wrapped and noted to leave him inside on Tuesday.

    Tuesday night there was about the same swelling as Monday, but he was solidly a 3/5 lame, though not noticeable at all at the walk. But he hadn't been turned out on Tuesday, so I wasn't too concerned.

    Last night (Wednesday), he was maybe even more lame at the trot (still 3/5), but still not noticeable at the walk. He also had a digital pulse that I could feel on the right, but not on the left. Not bounding, but it was there.

    Am I correct to assume it's just an abscess? This would be my first abscess in at least 6 years in any of my horses, and obviously the first I've had in him. It just slightly worries me that it's a hind.

    And, at what point would you have a vet/farrier take a look? If he's not better in a week? Less? More?

  • #2
    Well, first of all - it's difficult to say what is wrong since you don't specify where the swelling is located.

    If it's an abcess, is he shod or barefoot on the foot in question? My experience with abcesses have been that it is usually best to pull the shoe off and have the farrier out and put the hoof testers on. I would do this right away if an abcess is suspected. Also, in my experience, the best thing for an abcess is turnout. Walking on it seems to bring it out faster. IF it's a sole abcess, sometimes the farrier can pare the sole a bit to help it come through and relieve the pressure.

    I'm not sure what wrapping would do for an abcess. Sometimes, an epsom soak in warm water or a hoof poultice can help bring it out - that is IF it is truly an abcess.

    Maybe you can share more info and get more input.


    • #3
      If I'm reasonably certain I'm dealing with an abscess (and I'm not willing to hazard a guess about whether or not that's the case for your horse), I'll generally soak and poultice for a couple of days, and then call the vet if it hasn't opened on it's own by then. If the horse is truly miserable, or I'm not certain that I'm dealing with an abscess, then I'll call sooner.

      The last time I had an abscess, my mare came in lame on a Friday night (of course!), so I soaked and poulticed all weekend, called the vet Monday morning, and had they came out on Tuesday. She was obviously lame, even at the walk, but comfortable enough that she was willingly walking around the pasture and coming down for food and water.

      I will only leave horses in when they have abscesses if they're so lame that I'm concerned about them getting enough to drink, or if I feel that they're in danger of being injured by their herd-mates because of their decreased mobility.

      However, if I'm unsure of the cause of lameness, and there's leg swelling, I probably would be leaving the horse in until I was sure there was no soft tissue (tendon/ligament) damage.

      Personally, if it were me, I'd be calling the vet today if I were you. It's only going to be more challenging and more expensive to get a vet out on the weekend if you need one.
      "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
      -Edward Hoagland


      • #4
        No matter what it is now I would call the vet as it has been 5 or 6 days now and you have not seen much improvement. My horse has never had an abscess so I have never dealt with one personally but from what I have heard is that the a horse that has an abscess is likely to be fairly lame on the leg with the abscess and there is heat in the hoof or the coronary band but no swelling. If it is higher on the leg it could be a number of things including tendon or ligament injury. It could also be an infection from a cut since you said he is prone to getting them. If I were you I would call the vet to come out right away.


        • #5
          My mare presents an abscess similar to what the OP is describing. She's also presented much, much more subtly (toe dragging at the walk and trot, but no more lame than that).

          So, sure, it could be an abscess. For my mare, I can pretty much check off X, Y, and Z symptoms and be pretty darn sure it's an abscess.

          But if you're not sure that this is typical for the horse, better to call the vet out and confirm; if it's something more serious, you want to address it sooner rather than later.

          And even with my horse, I call the vet out after 3-4 days if an abscess hasn't popped. Again, just to be safe in case I am wrong.


          • #6
            I've dealt with more than a few abscesses and swelling was never a symptom. I'm not clear why you're thinking abscess vs. a soft tissue injury. I'd ask the vet to take a look.


            • Original Poster

              The swelling is almost identical to stocking up or cellulitis in the hind, which is why I wasn't concerned. Both my other horses have presented with this kind of swelling with an abscess, but as I said, I've never had an abscess in this horse so I'm not sure what his "normal" would be. And wrapping his hinds helped decrease that swelling.

              He's barefoot. I had the farrier out last night and he tested negative to hoof testers, which, as anyone knows, isn't a sign that there isn't an abscess. He found an area that "might" indicate an abscess, but he's not sure.

              And is anyone ever sure that it's an abscess until it blows out? I've seen a torn suspensory diagnosed as an abscess for 2 months (granted, IMO, the vet who diagnosed it is a moron, but that's another story), and in one of my own horses an abscess put him in the hospital for 2 days because he'd recently had a tendon sheath injected and they thought it was related to that. In the latter case, radiographs, hoof testers, no diagnostics were able to tell it was an abscess. We knew when he walked out of his stall sound on Day 4. We still weren't able to find a hole where it blew.

              Originally posted by AA Hunter View Post
              I've dealt with more than a few abscesses and swelling was never a symptom. I'm not clear why you're thinking abscess vs. a soft tissue injury. I'd ask the vet to take a look.
              I don't think it's a soft tissue injury because he got drastically worse overnight just standing in his stall. I suppose it's always possible he kicked a wall that night with the leg he was only slightly lame on the day before, but that seems a little far-fetched.

              Thanks for the replies! If he's not better by next week, I'll have the vet out to take a look.


              • #8
                Could be an abscess...could be a soft tissue injury. I just had a horse come up three-legged lame last Saturday with his lower leg totally swollen like a balloon and my first thought was that it was a bad soft tissue injury. Five days later the swelling was down almost 100% and an abscess burst out the bulb of his heel. Hurray! Both my vet and farrier said that abscesses do sometimes present with swelling since the horse is keeping all their weight off that leg. My vet also said that swelling is more common in the hind legs because it's easier for the horse to prop those up and there is less circulation back there.

                That being said--I did have my vet scheduled to come out until that abscess burst. I don't mess around with potential soft tissue injuries. I would schedule an appointment with your vet just to be safe. Fingers crossed for your that it's just an abscess!
                "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"