The hoof Is made up of a outer hoof wall (the part visible to the human eye) and the laminae (the tissue layer that connects the hoof wall to the coffin bone). A hoof abscess forms when bacteria become trapped inside the hoof. When an abscess forms, bacteria get trapped between the laminae and the hoof wall and form a pocket of exudate, or pus. This builds up pressure behind the hoof wall, or sole, that causes a lot of pain for a horse.

Hoof abscesses are one of the most common reasons for acute (sudden) lameness in horses. Horses can be completely normal in appearance and become unable to bear weight from an abscess within 24 hours.


If a horse is experiencing a hoof abscess, they may exhibit one or more of the following signs:

  • Mild to severe lameness
  • Swelling of limb
  • Warmth to the touch of the hoof wall or limb
  • Distinct pulse felt near pastern
  • Discharge coming from hoof or near coronary band
  • Foul smell coming from hoof
  • Object punctured in hoof
If you see anything abnormal in the hoof, do not remove it.


    Hoof abscesses can form for a variety of reasons but are most seen during the spring and fall seasons. The changes in weather from wet to dry, or dry to wet, may cause a horse’s hoof to become brittle and more prone to cracks and gaps, which allow bacteria to enter.


    While a hoof abscess generally takes several days to develop, most horses don’t show any clinical signs until the pressure becomes so great that severe lameness is evident. Often this lameness develops overnight. Changes in blood flow to the hoof cause it to throb, and this can be detected as a more evident pulse in the affected lower limb. Palpation of the coronary band (hairline) or heel bulbs often elicits pain.

    Vets usually diagnose a hoof abscess based on history and a physical examination. Whenever possible your vet will use hoof testers to localize the abscess to a region of the foot. Sometimes he or she might use diagnostic nerve blocks or even radiographs to confirm the diagnosis or to pinpoint the exact location of the abscess.


    The quickest way to relieve hoof abscess pain is to drain the exudates buildup, which is like popping a large pimple. The growing exudates and pressure of the abscess will try to take the path of least resistance. For some abscesses, this means they will rupture on their own and drain at the coronary band (commonly referred to as a “gravel”) or heel bulbs. Other abscesses will need to be surgically drained by your veterinarian.


    ProflamAid Plus 25g, fed 3x per day
    EquiGesic Plus 2.5g, fed 3x daily


    ProflamAid Plus
    EquiGesic Plus