A tale of a terrible Abscess!
I wanted to share my recent experience with everyone! I've been doing the 'horse thing' for 23 years and have never experienced anything quite like this. It's a big long winded but I intend to keep adding photos for everyone as we get further along in this. Maybe it will help someone in the future!
My 6 y/o Dutch Wmbld/ TB cross came in two weeks ago on Wednesday kinda off. Was taking a funny step in the corner. The hoof had very minimal heat but I assumed abscess and started treating it as such. On the Thursday, he was exactly the same, no better and no worse. I continued soaking and poulticing with alternate animal lintex & wheat bran/epsom. On the friday, he was very lame. I continued with the routine. On the Saturday I came in to the barn and had a complete melt down. His leg was HUGE to the knee cap and had what appeared to be a large 'banana' bowed tendon. I called my vet immediately (I love out of hours calls! Thats the only time my horses seem to need them!). They told me there was nothing they could do currently and wasn't worth an emergency call as a bow can take up to 5 days to fully present and to begin alternating cold hosing and DMSO/Furacin sweats. We scheduled them to come out on the Monday morning with the Ultrasound machine. Upset was an understatement. I paid a lot for this horse, and more importantly, he's my buddy and a fabulous animal.
On the Sunday I came out to discover that the swelling had continued to build and get worse. His knee cap was now full of fluid, and he had swollen all the way to his chest. At this stage I started panicking. I called my vet again, explained what I was looking at and told them I needed them now. At this stage he couldn't walk- he was dragging his whole front leg along like it was a foreign object. While he was still presenting a 'bow' I knew that a bow shouldn't be doing this.
Vet came out and drew blood, and gave him an IV shot of penecillin as well as Banamine to ease his pain. He didn't find a bow or any soft tissue trauma but did find.... a massive abscess sitting right in the bulb of his heel. He didn't dig it out but told me to soak again right away and we should find that it would pop. Oh boy did it pop.
That started a WEEK of draining. We soaked in epsom and hot water for a timed 1/2 hour every day. The foot was wrapped with animalintex and vet wrap and he was left indoors. To deal with the swelling and edema we sweated the knee cap and lower leg. It took about 4 days to get the swelling in the lower leg out and week for the knee (there is still some fluid sitting in the knee currently but nothing compared to what we had). He was kept on stall rest during this time. He was on sulfa drugs (antibiotics) for a week. His temperature remained normal throughout this however he was 'dull' and not himself.
I had my farrier out last Wednesday (a week after this started). We decided to leave the shoe on rather then pull it to support his foot as we are pretty sure he is going to loose a very large portion of the back of the hoof and heel.
My coach and other long term riders (other riders with 20+ years of experience) have never seen an abscess like this. Or an abscess present like this. Currently he has a 2 1/2 inch slit right across the coronet band under the heel bulb which has now hardened. He is growing new hoof wall underneath however it is very likely that this whole 2 1/2 inch section will get sloughed off as it grows out. We should be able to see the 'burrow' holes from the abscess on the new hoof wall underneath it. The abscess finished draining on Sunday. He is still not 100% sound but this is from the degradation of the hoof wall- there is no further abscess. I will try and get some pictures of the split currently when I'm out this afternoon and will add photos periodically as it grows out. I have attached some photos of the swelling we saw on the Sunday now. The other front leg had a clay poultice on it thus the funny color of that leg. The swelling was more visible in photos from the back of the leg then the front. He did loose his chestnut on the swollen leg from the extreme swelling
I have had a couple of horses that swelled huge with abscesses. I also had one that got a cellulitis that started with an abscess. I followed their temperatures very carefully and they got pretty high before they broke. I have always preferred that they break on the hairline. They usually grow down and the piece of hoof below the split stays for a pretty good while. When a heel blows out, sometimes you have to put a bar shoe on it to protect it and sometimes not. I just had one blow out on a back heel, about 4 or 5 weeks ago. He is doing OK without a bar shoe -- so far. We have kept him out of the rocks since, but he seems to be alright. He was intermittently lame for about 2-3 weeks before it finally blew. He did not swell big. He just stocked up a bit in that leg. I don't know why some swll so big. I think they probably have more infection in them before they break.
This is the first Abscess this one has had since I purchased him. I've seen swelling through the pastern and fetlock with abscesses before but never all the way to the chest. The scariest thing with this one is that it presented as a bowed tendon. Even when we had the vet out he thought it was still quite possible we had an issue with the tendon as well (which we don't thank goodness!). I assumed his temperature would spike but it never did. Stayed normal through the whole thing.
Have you used a bar shoe for heels before with success? We are still keeping him in. We are having crazy temperature fluctuations at the moment from +10 to -18 so the ground keeps going from frozen to unfrozen... He is getting turnout in our indoor arena so that he can move around. He's 99% sound. He still is taking the odd funny step on that foot in the corners. I agree with you though- I'd rather they split at the hairline then on the sole.
I've put two photos of the split below. He does have a small (less than 1 inch) split on the other side of the heel as well. I had not cleaned it before I took the photos- we are trying to leave it open to harden the rest of his foot up again.
Wow, that was a scary incident. Glad he is now on the road to recovery.
That is scary! I have never seen one present with that much swelling! I had the opposite happen once- a horse that had not shown a lame step, was 100% sound...he went for a trim, the farrier started to trim his sole and a stream of pus shot out....he had a huge abscess! It took about a week to drain... I was so shocked that he never showed up lame! Glad yours is on the road to recovery!
I had a horse with an abscess that came out exactly the same place. I did not have all the swelling you had.. but I remember this. When the hoof grew out, the entire frog eventually shed. I also recall that we did some trimming along the crack in the back (at first) to keep the draining going.
The out come for the horse was fine. Horse never took another lame step after that was cleared up.
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