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Do I HAVE to soak a foot abcess or can I just pack it?

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  • Do I HAVE to soak a foot abcess or can I just pack it?

    My guy's barefoot (he has generally good feet), has been since I've owned him (over 2 years) and he's never taken a lame step, until two days ago (Jan 1)... He was trimmed on Dec 31 and then turned out in a small "dry" lot that does have trees with exposed roots, some rocks etc. It has been raining alot, so the "dry" lot was pretty soft and muddy and spots. This was the 3rd trim by this particular trimmer, and though I think my guy's toes are abit long after this new trimmer does him (we're working on it), my horse was not off after the first 2 trims.

    The day after his trim, he was slightly lame/sore at the walk when in the groomed arena, but generally moving OK. With the wet ground etc. I thought maybe he'd stepped on a tree root or whatnot, and figured he'd bruised himself abit.He's been out most days, in only at night. Put Durasole on both fronts.

    This AM, he didn't want to walk out of his stall, his L front is obviously bothering him, sometimes resting the foot cocked on on his toe, but when I pounded on the sole with the hoofpick, there was very little reaction... Again put on some Durasole and had to go to work, while be back at lunch to wrap etc.

    I have a feeling he won't be too great about standing with his foot in a bucket to soak it before wrapping, and I'm wondering if all this wet caused this anyhow... so I'm wondering if I can just wrap it with Ichtammol, Termacare heat pad, etc. and not soak?

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  • #2
    Call me a heretic, but I rarely soak abscesses--I don't have time, usually. Packing seems to work just as well IME.

    I prefer a slurry of glycerin, epsom salt, and betadine, held in place with maxi pads or diapers and duct tape.
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    • #3
      I have found this works really well..and my Vet has incorporated it into her bag of tricks...take a baby diaper..pour till almost fully soaked with water add Epsom Salts and put into Microwave until pretty darn hot..wrap foot layer 1 to 2 plastic bags top with vet wrap and leave on over nite...beats a 20 minute struggle with soaking tub every time...


      • #4
        Soaking is not an option with my donkey (!) so when he had a bad LF abscess I used the baby diaper route too. In my case it seemed that packing with Sugar-dine (combination of Betadine solution and table sugar made into a thick glop) worked better for me than Epsom salts but I couldn't prove that! Also, I did not heat up in microwave, just did everything room temp.
        It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.


        • #5
          Originally posted by judybigredpony View Post
          I have found this works really well..and my Vet has incorporated it into her bag of tricks...take a baby diaper..pour till almost fully soaked with water add Epsom Salts and put into Microwave until pretty darn hot..wrap foot layer 1 to 2 plastic bags top with vet wrap and leave on over nite...beats a 20 minute struggle with soaking tub every time...
          When soaking is not an easy option, this method works great. The only thing I'd be careful with is to not do this for too many days in a row, as it's not ideal to have a foot so damp & not able to "breathe" for that long. In the past when I used this method instead of soaking, I've wrapped 2x a day, leaving the wet diaper/salt wrap on 12 hours, and then doing a dry animalintex pad wrap the other rotation. Good luck!
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          • #6
            I usually use AnimaLintex, which I like because you don't have to get the entire hoof wet - just the access area. I like to wet the pad in very hot water, apply to sore area, then wrap in saran wrap, then vetwrap,and then duct tape.
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            • #7
              I rarely soak. Probably the only time I do soak is when I have an abscess that has opened up or might be open and the wrap came off, so I'll soak to clean it out some before re wrapping. I just do similar pack/wraps as those above. My poultice of choice is the animalintex pads, as they are so easy to use and do a great job. I keep them on hand, along with diapers, coflex wrap, and duct tape. I use ichthammol sometimes, but hate that stuff as it is so messy and you can't always tell if the abscess actually opens (is that black gunk just the ichthammol or new coming from the abscess?).

              Someone has posted a great idea in the past that I have not yet tried- slapping one of those heat therapy pads on the bottom as they stay warm for several hours. I'll try that one of these days, I'm sure, but haven't wrapped an abscess lately, so no need...yet. Now that I typed that, I'll probably have 3 gimpy horses in my barn when I go down for lunch.


              • #8
                I soaked a SLOW abscess this spring. Decided it that I would not do it again, as I think the only thing it did was dry out the hoof & make it chippy. I would go with a poultice.


                It is frustrating b/c there really is no consensus on this.
                Last edited by Hippolyta; Jan. 3, 2013, 03:54 AM.


                • #9
                  My farrier had me use ichthmol (sp?) under a wrap until the abscess blew, then soak with epsom salts - or use a soaking bandage - to draw out anything in that channel that would cause a re-abscess. He said that epsom salts actually strengthen the hoof and make it harder for the abscess to blow out.

                  Animalintex is another option but the cost adds up fast.
                  "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by judybigredpony View Post
                    I have found this works really well..and my Vet has incorporated it into her bag of tricks...take a baby diaper..pour till almost fully soaked with water add Epsom Salts and put into Microwave until pretty darn hot..wrap foot layer 1 to 2 plastic bags top with vet wrap and leave on over nite...beats a 20 minute struggle with soaking tub every time...
                    I don't think you need to soak, and I agree that the wet diaper (that sounded gross) method is just as good. I have a small variation on it. I put the diaper on dry and then dunk the whole thing, foot/diaper and all, in a bucket of hot water which does the same thing without the need to put something wet and messt in the microwave. But same difference.
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                    • #11
                      I have stopped soaking abscesses. I think it takes longer and very few have the time to soak 20 minutes multiple times a day. I much prefer to wrap. I usually wrap with icthamol until the abscess blows. Put a little icthamol on a cotton pad, then wrap with a diaper and duck tape. Once it blows (IME, typically 3-5 days at max) I will soak once to get the foot cleaned up, sanitized, and draw out anything remaining. Once it blows, I stop wrapping and let nature take its course.
                      Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.


                      • #12
                        Icthamol or Animalintex.


                        • #13
                          I don't soak either. I either pack it with magna paste (aka green stuff with epson salts) or icthamol. I have to say that for years, I shied away from icthamol, but that stuff works!
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                          • #14



                            • #15
                              I always thought the Theremapad was a brilliant idea and have stored it away for future use...good ideas come from COTH. The foot does not have to be so wet.
                              Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                              • #16
                                Great resource! (The article AND all of your posts)
                                Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.

                                You call it boxed wine. I call it carboardeaux.


                                • #17
                                  I just had to deal with an abscess last week – first time one of my horses got one since 1989!

                                  Lucky for me it was ready to blow out by the heel, and wasn’t too extreme (noticed horse not weighting heel all the time, and very slightly off at the trot).

                                  Instead of soaking, I went with a hot compress. I made a solution of Epsom salts and hot water (those cheap plug in tea kettles work great for boiling water at the barn). Saturated a small rag with the water – placed it on the heel and wrapped it in place with an ace bandage. Changed this out about 3 times over 30 mins (so it stayed hot). Did this once a day for three days – and viola! Small abscess came to a head, I was able to flush it with a betadine solution. Now have just been keeping it clean, and the exit site flushed. Horse is sound and no longer tender.
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                                  • #18
                                    If you don't have any diapers or if you know where the abcess is or if your horse likes to pull off the diapers, maxi pads work just as well. I dip them in 1:16 bleach water, put them on on the hoof and then wrap with duct tape. For my really determined horse, I top it off with vet wrap. It stays on really well, is cheap, and works really well.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by texang73 View Post

                                      I have a feeling he won't be too great about standing with his foot in a bucket to soak it before wrapping, and I'm wondering if all this wet caused this anyhow... so I'm wondering if I can just wrap it with Ichtammol, Termacare heat pad, etc. and not soak?

                                      Wait a minute.

                                      First, you THINK it is an abcess, but you have had neither a vet nor a farrier confirm it.

                                      Second, you THINK he won't be good about soaking, but you haven't tried it yet.

                                      Talk about going off half cocked.

                                      Most times when I THINK it is an abscess, it is. But a couple of times it has been something very different, (once, it was a hairline fracture, once it was a structural problem with the hoof wall. Navicular syndrome, and deep digital flexor tendon problems can also present in ways similar to an abscess ) requiring different treatment. I strongly suggest having a vet or farrier confirm the diagnosis- especially since you are not getting a strong response to hoof testers.

                                      And if it IS an abscess, why no TRY soaking it instead of just assuming he won't tolerate it. There have been rare occaisions when my vet has OK'd wrapping instead of soaking, but generally he says that soaking is much more effective.

                                      Even if I can only do it once a day, I always soak abscesses.

                                      Furthermore, learning to stand wth a foot in a bucket of either hot or ice water is something that, IMNSHO, should be part of EVERY horse's basic ground training.

                                      chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Janet - thank you for your opinions. Could it be more than an abcess/ bruise, perhaps, but I strongly doubt it, especally since he had just been trimmed the day before and it's been soft and wet here... no crazy running around or any event of any kind in the recent past that would indicate a hairline fracture or whatnot.

                                        And of course, had he not improved almost immeadiately after the first wrapping, then the trimmer and/or vet would have been called. You shouldn't make assumptions about what I have or haven't done since the original post (which was written less than an hour after I noticed he was off and had already wrapped since even if I had wanted to, I had no time to soak as I was due at work), but would've soaked also if needed). And yes I agree with the learning to stand with foot in bucket etc. is a good horse life skill.

                                        I was just really trying to satisfy a curiousity as to whether soaking is 'required' or not for an abcess. FWIW I ended up wrapping with Ichtammol, heat pad, diaper (and then Vetwrap and duct tape to keep it all on)... I re-wrapped with a new heat pad, fresh diaper, etc. once a day for 5 days. He's now sound and wrap free, turned out.
                                        Last edited by texang73; Jan. 7, 2013, 04:23 PM.
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