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How long to heal from abscess?

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  • How long to heal from abscess?

    Here's the backstory: my mare came up three-legged lame about a month ago. We gave her bute for a week, she got better, then went dead lame again. I did find a small bruise on the toe. I called the vet out, she got out her hoof testers and found an abscess. She did take x-rays to confirm there wasn't anything else going on and then pared away some of the sole of the hoof and made a small hole for it to drain out of. She told me to soak, pack and wrap for a week, which I did. The hole the vet made did get bigger, so I figured that was when everything drained out. My horse remained pretty off at the walk for that whole week, which I thought was because her hoof was soft from packing.

    She got sound at the walk almost immediately after I stopped soaking and wrapping. She still gimps at the trot a but but doesn't have a head bob anymore. Last night, there was slight heat in the one hoof. All in all, she does seem to be getting better but in the smallest increments possible. I thought after the abscess drained out, she would be 100% and I am dismayed she is still off. The vet came out almost 3 weeks ago - is it normal for an abscess to talk this long to heal?

    I do have a call into the vet - hoping that I am just being impatient.
    My blog: Journeys in Riding

  • #2
    I had a horse that took FOREVER to look better, maybe 6 weeks or so before he looked 100% again.

    Maybe another abcess brewing?


    • #3
      I am dealing with this same issue with Miss BBHM. Her owner and I are worried about it a little bit, because she is 27 and there could be underlying hoof issues going on, as well as arthritis (see my old thread about Cosequin ASU, turns out it wasn't a flare-up but an abscess instead). We're coming up on 6 weeks, she is sound to the left WTC but still off to the right. It's pretty subtle but we don't want to take any chances.

      Because she's older, it could take longer for it to heal. If it continues on, we're planning X-rays of the foot and having both the vet and trimmer look at them. She may have to be completely retired if the prognosis isn't good.

      Good luck, OP. It stinks because we are getting into some really good riding weather, and I really want to enjoy that with her.
      RIP my beautiful Lola, ????–August 29, 2014


      • #4
        I have an ottb we are dealing with this issue right now. We pull shoe, soak, pack & wrap. He gets better, we put shoe back on. he goes lame again. We pull shoe, soak, pack & wrap...

        It can be so frustrating because you just feel like you cant help him! He is also very dramatic about it which doesn't help.

        Good luck I hope she gets better soon.


        • #5
          I am at what I hope to be the tail end of the same story. He had an abcess about 6 weeks ago. He is slowly healing, slowly getting sound, but he was not sound overnight. Not by a long shot. I have also felt impatient, but it takes as long as it takes, it was a huge abcess and hoof takes a long time to regenerate...


          • #6
            Wow. Some of these have sure taken long to heal. I guess all horses heal differently. The last abscess I encountered we found by accident. This horse never tool a lame step. We drained it, and good as new.

            Most other horses I have had with abscesses were very lame, but sound within a few days to a week.

            Happy and swift healing to all your ponies!
            “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
            ¯ Oscar Wilde


            • Original Poster

              I am glad to know that other people had this long healing experience too. I am so glad we did an x-ray, and know that there isn't anything else going on. My mare does sound like yours, BBHM - she good tracking one way, but not the other.

              I did hack her lightly because she has been off for a month and is getting fat. I also thought that since she had been lame for so long, she needed to get confident about just moving around regularly again. She seemed pretty happy to work - ears forward and willing to trot on.

              I do wonder if there is another abscess brewing or if there were two right on top of each other?

              Everyone else at my barn keep stelling me how their horses with abscesses would just blow out and they didn't know it was a problem until they saw the whole.

              I don't have a regular farrier, which makes these things a little tricky. I just got to the vet. My girl's barefoot and a groom at the barn trims her, and has since before I even owned her. Having a shoe to deal with like Sunken Meadow sounds like an extra layer of complexity.

              My girl isn't especially old - 13. But we are getting into good riding weather here, too - dropped down to 90 the other day! Probably a little bit different than your nice weather in the Northeast, but a welcome change.
              My blog: Journeys in Riding


              • #8
                I had a very similar situation happen with my retired boy...

                About a month and a half ago, my boy came in with an abscess. So the vet was there, lameness vet, and tried to dig out the abscess and was able to get some to come in but it was a bit deep. So we soaked it and he started to get better. Then two weeks later he was lame again, so we went back to soaking and wrapping it up. He is no longer ridden, so we assumed the abscess was back. The vet checked again and found nothing, so we continued our soaking plan.

                About two weeks of soaking, his leg flared up and was really swollen and we knew it was abscess related. This time we didn't call the vet, but knew it would pop out of the coronary band. Sure enough the next day it created a massive hole but he was completely sound once the abscess popped and has been sound since.

                Could it be the abscess is still in there?
                Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
                Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
                Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
                Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook


                • #9
                  I'm going through it too! Wow, so glad I found this tread. I was going nuts. My guy now has a pack with Magic Cushion to see if that helps. His ankle was also swollen, and it popped out of the coronary band (and the bottom). It's been two and a half weeks since the lameness started and two weeks since the first drainage. After the Magic Cushion, I might start soaking again.
                  "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LShipley View Post
                    I am glad to know that other people had this long healing experience too. I am so glad we did an x-ray, and know that there isn't anything else going on. My mare does sound like yours, BBHM - she good tracking one way, but not the other.

                    I did hack her lightly because she has been off for a month and is getting fat. I also thought that since she had been lame for so long, she needed to get confident about just moving around regularly again. She seemed pretty happy to work - ears forward and willing to trot on.

                    I do wonder if there is another abscess brewing or if there were two right on top of each other?


                    My girl isn't especially old - 13. But we are getting into good riding weather here, too - dropped down to 90 the other day! Probably a little bit different than your nice weather in the Northeast, but a welcome change.
                    I'm also wondering about another possible abscess. We did not soak her hoof until we saw a little divet in her hoof, we first did a wheat bran and Epsom salt pack in a diapers, wrapped it with Vetwrap/Coflex, and then taped the end. Soaking the hoof is bad news for my mare, who has awful, awful, crumbly, soft front hooves. I am questioning whether this tiny divet was the blow out--I would have thought it would be a huge hole. Or, maybe not huge, but a hole in general, not just a little depression.

                    Think I'll start packing her hoof again. It's just odd that she's sound to the left and not to the right if there is still something brewing in there. I rode her W/T Sunday, and she was HAPPY to work (actually had to lunge her first!) but turning on that RF was tough. Up until she went dead lame on that hoof, I rode her gently, as she was sound at the walk. And, thinking it was her arthritis, movement is a good thing. And I regret doing that now, should have just packed the hoof and not ridden.

                    Ugh. Horses.
                    RIP my beautiful Lola, ????–August 29, 2014


                    • #11
                      I have one with an abscess now that is going on a month. I had the vet out again this afternoon as I started to worry there was more going on but no, just a stubborn abscess.

                      I had a lot of abscesses this summer --4 spread over 2 horses. I wonder if the drought around here made their feet more likely to have issues, or if it is just plain bad luck.


                      • #12
                        The hot, humid, rainy weather here in the Northeast has been wreaking havoc on many hooves. Besides my mare, I know of 3 other horses who are also going through abscess h-e-double hockey sticks!
                        RIP my beautiful Lola, ????–August 29, 2014


                        • Original Poster

                          Originally posted by BigBayHanoMare View Post
                          Up until she went dead lame on that hoof, I rode her gently, as she was sound at the walk. And, thinking it was her arthritis, movement is a good thing. And I regret doing that now, should have just packed the hoof and not ridden.
                          I am feeling much less worried after seeing these responses. Thanks everyone, for sharing.

                          BBHM, are you sorry that you rode her because of the pain? Some people have said that it is better to ride with the abscess, if possible, because the pressure helps to force it out. Don't know if there is any truth to that.

                          We've had a lot of hot/dry this summer and the vet said they were seeing lots of abscesses from that. I am inclined to think that a stone bruise set this off for my mare, though.

                          I packed and wrapped the hoof with some green epsom salt goo that the vet recommended. I can't say how well it works, but it smells wonderful. Last night, when I found heat in the coronary band, I just smeared the gel all over the coronary band and her fetlocks. I didn't wrap it, so it probably eventually dripped off. But I am hoping it helped draw some stuff out.

                          Because she was sound tracking one side, I have also thought of having the chiro out. Part of me is thinking she must be horribly out of wack from limping around for a month.
                          My blog: Journeys in Riding


                          • #14
                            My guy had an abscess from a close nail a few weeks ago and took 2 weeks to heal - the vet was out 3 days after he showed up lame because of swelling and heat at my trainer's recommendation. I had never had a horse get an abscess in 29 years with horses, and had no idea if a vet or farrier was needed.

                            Since I have learned about abscesses caused by external bodies vs. by a nail or other issue allowing bacteria to grow and cause an infection, and am grateful my trainer knew by the second day we should call the vet! I was out of town at the time, but was back in time to see the vet, and it oozed all over as soon as he pulled the shoe. My horse got antibiotic shots at the time which reduced the swelling immediately and he was sound within a few days but as my vet guessed might happen he started limping again and legs swelled up a few days after that. He then had to go on oral antibiotics for the infection which he just got off, and he swelled up on the other three legs as well. I'm not sure how much was from weighting them extra, how much was from inactivity and how much was from the infection, but after my experience I definitely say call your vet after heat/swelling if it doesn't go away pretty much immediately.

                            For the horse who developed a divot - are you sure there wasn't trauma at the coronary band and that's where it's growing out? It may or may not be related to lameness if so. A friend had a horse she thought was permanently lame who she sent to pasture and it turned out he had an injury at his coronary band and when it finally grew out he was sound again. My horse got cast and had a divot slowly grow out with no lameness from it.
                            Originally posted by Silverbridge
                            If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                            • #15
                              Hate to tell you this, but we had one that took six months, from start to finish. Mare had an abcess, vet would treat, mare would be sound, and then just come up lame randomly. Treat again, come back sound, come up lame. Vet worried about founder, and rotation, so did x-rays, found abcess was quite deep, so never actually completely healed.

                              We had to have the farrier cut out a one inch wide section of her hoof from top to bottom to allow proper drainage. Treatment with antibiotics, was shod, kept cleaned and wrapped, and had to wait for hoof to grow back in.

                              Luckily, she has quick growing hooves, and every thing turned out fine, but, it sure took a long time.
                              What you allow is what will continue.


                              • #16
                                LShipley, I'm more afraid or regetting that I may have caused her any more pain from riding her, even hacking at the walk. Especially since it didn't cross my mind that it could be an abscess. But Miss BBHM and my gelding are out 24/7 on pasture so she wasn't being stalled anyway (except when I rode the gelding). She was completely sound at the walk when we did this, but I still worry, especially since she's 27!

                                netg, the divot was actually on the sole of her hoof near the toe, where it's been chipped and cracked. Last year she tore a chunk out of that hoof and I saw a part of the hoof I've only seen in photographs! We lost the rest of the riding season from that injury. But from looking at photos of blown abscesses on the sole, I am not convinced that's the abscess.

                                Farrier/trimmer is coming out Friday, depending on what time I am hoping to get out there when he's there and get his help (especially since this started 6 weeks ago immediately after her last trim). Otherwise Miss BBHM's other mom will be there and we both have lots of the same questions.
                                RIP my beautiful Lola, ????–August 29, 2014


                                • #17
                                  To the OP - I really recommend getting a farrier out to check the horses hoof. Vets are not specialized in hoof care and hoof abscesses like farriers are - the farrier will be more likely to find something the vet missed. Since Xrays showed that there is nothing else going on (fracture, rotation, etc) it is probably the abscess that either was not completely opened or there is another one in there.

                                  It could be nothing, but IMHO, I'd have a farrier out to look at the horses hooves rather than have the vet out again. If the farrier doesn't find anything and the horse is still sore, then have the vet out.


                                  • #18
                                    I just dealt with my first naughty abscess. It was brewing causing on and off lameness (of varying degrees) and heat/swelling for 2.5 weeks. Horse was recovering from another injury so all along I wasn't sure it was an abscess, some sort of injury from the horse playing rowdy in his pen (since he was on limited turnout) or lingering problems from the initial injury. Finally took horse to the vet, vet pared away at the sole where hoof testers indicated an abscess might be but never found anything conclusive. The very next day it blew out at the cornet band, and the horse has been nicely sound ever since

                                    FWIW I had the farrier out first. He did hoof testers and said no abscess. Now that I know it was indeed an abscess all along, I suspect that it was high enough up in the hoof that it just didn't register in the typical hoof tester zone around the hoof/sole.


                                    • #19
                                      If you or vet or farrier use the hoof knife to open the abscess on the sole of the horse's hoof, don't let them make the hole too big.
                                      Poultice to get the infected material out.
                                      Each time you change the poultice, use a shoe nail in the hole to scrape around the insides of the hole, clearing out any dead tissue or gunk there.
                                      When you stop poulticing, clear out the hole again.
                                      Spray inside of hole with iodine (2.5% - I get mine from farm supply stores), copper sulphate solution, stockholm tar or similar. I have also used a foot rot spray made for sheep and goat feet. If you need to, use an old syringe and needle to squirt your liquid in as far as possible.
                                      Take some cotton wool and put some of your solution on to it.
                                      Use the shoe nail to pack the cotton wool into the hole, forcing it as high as you can.
                                      With big holes or horses being handled lots or when you have lots of time, change the cotton wool every second day. If you're really busy, change it once a week.
                                      Its important to kill off the bugs in the hole and to stop more getting in. That's what results in repeated abscesses.

                                      I have to say that this method has always worked for me. It also works curing seedy toe. I've never had a horse lame for more than a day or two after I've found the abscess. Hole may stay packed for 6 months or more.


                                      • #20
                                        The weird thing with my guy is that although his ankle is swollen, there is no heat. None. I couldn't feel any, nor could the vet or farrier. Now, he's starting to seem lame on all four feet. However, we got drainage and vet and farrier both tested and said it was an abscess. Farrier thinks it's huge, though, so maybe I just need to be patient. Might get the vet out for X-rays this Saturday if things don't improve with soaking/wrapping.

                                        BTW, I highly recommend the Davis soaking boot. You can just put it on and leave it. They come with a pad now, too, that holds medicine. I think best price I've found is horsehealthusa.com or was it valleyvet.com? Both good places. (I ordered from horsehealthusa.com, but I found a few other things there I wanted.)
                                        "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."