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A: Acute or chronic subsolar abscesses are common in horses. Causes range from bruising to close nailing to post-laminitic seedy toe. Acute abscesses have a sudden onset and other differential diagnoses need to be ruled out. Chronic abscesses are often seen with chronic laminitis or neglected feet.
Acute abscesses can mimic coffin bone fractures, lower limb joint infections, sole bruises, puncture wounds and laminitis. These are best managed by a vet/farrier team approach. If a farrier is called for acute foot lameness, questions should be asked to assess the situation.
If conditions don’t suggest an abscess, then it’s best to refer the case to a vet.
If an abscess is likely, then a farrier may want to respond, depending on state laws and familiarity with the horse. A farrier receiving a call about a recently shod horse should make sure the lameness was not caused by the shoeing.
If I look at a horse that’s been shod in the past week, I make a point of pulling each nail so I can assess for moisture, pus or heat. If I find any of these, then I know I found a good place to investigate. Sometimes, squeezing over the affected hole with hoof testers will bring pus to the surface and then it’s a simple matter of opening up a small drainage hole.
If nothing is found near the nail holes, but a painful area can be localized, wrap the…