This is the most common cause of lameness in the horse. The lameness is usually confined to one leg and clinical signs will occur suddenly sometimes during exercise when the animal has not been lame to begin with. The severity of the lameness is determined by the amount of pus produced and whether it has a means of escape. If there is no drainage, the pressure of the pus builds up between the sensitive layers of the hoof resulting in inflammation and pain.
What causes ‘pus in the foot’?
Pus in the foot is simply due to the presence of bacteria and other germs within the foot causing infection. The bacteria is introduced into the foot either by a puncture wound (e.g. Nail prick) or through a crack in the white line or hoof wall.
What are the signs of ‘pus in the foot’?
The first sign of ‘pus in the foot’ is lameness, generally in one leg. This may be only a slight lameness initially but can develop to the extent that the horse is reluctant to bear weight on that leg. As pain in the leg worsens the horse may sweat and blow and can even be reluctant to eat.
The leg, in particular the hoof, will feel warm to the touch and when palpated the digital pulse will be strong or even bounding. The site of infection can usually be identified by applying light pressure with hoof testers over the sole. Pus may even be seen to ooze from the site of infection. Occasionally if severe the pus will migrate upwards and burst out at the coronary band or track along the sole leading to a condition called “under run sole”. The shoe will need to be removed to allow an adequate examination.
How can I prevent ‘pus in the foot’?
All horse’s feet should always be picked and thoroughly cleaned out before exercise. Exercise on uneven and stony ground should be avoided, particularly for thin-soled horses. Regular attention from a competent farrier will ensure that your horses’ feet are in optimal condition.
If you have any queries or concerns it is important that you contact your veterinary surgeon for advice. It is essential in these cases that early diagnosis and treatment is undertaken to try to prevent complications such as under-run sole and tracking to the coronary band. It is also vital to ensure that your horses are always fully vaccinated against tetanus, an invariably fatal infection which can gain access through hoof injuries.
Once successful drainage of the abscess has been achieved horses recover very quickly. A hot poultice can be applied to soften the hoof and allow the abscess to burst on its own.