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Treating An Abscess In Horses – What You Need To Know About Equine First Aide


At some point in time, most horse owners will have to deal with treating an abscess in their horses of one form or another. It is a good idea to know some basics about treating an abscess, as well as having some fairly basic first aide emergency supplies around your barn. Here are some horse health tips for those that may find themselves having to treat an abscess in their horse for the first time.

What You’ll Need:

  • Iodine Solution (or comparable antibacterial solution)
  • Large Syringe
  • Soft Washcloth
  • Antibacterial Ointment (such as Corona Ointment)
  • Clean Bucket or Container

An abscess can appear anywhere on a horse’s body, including inside the hoof and the mouth, causing excruciating pain until the abscess either ruptures on its own or is helped along with a lancing by your veterinarian. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss treating abscesses found on the body rather than hoof abscesses.

Typically before the abscess has ruptured you will find a large swelling that will often be warm to the touch. Depending on the size and severity of the abscess, you may find the surrounding tissues to be very hard with perhaps a smaller circular soft spot where the abscess is trying to work its way out of the body. If the abscess does not rupture of its own accord, your veterinarian may need to help the process along by lancing the abscess. Hot compresses can be used several times a day or a drawing salve to help speed the process of rupturing along.

Cleaning The Abscess

Once the abscess has opened and is draining, it’s very important to keep it open so the abscess can heal from the inside out. You run the risk of additional pockets forming and sealing off from the main drain area if you do not keep the area open, causing further complications down the road. Before flushing, you will want to clean the area with a soft washcloth and warm water. You can also use an antibacterial scrub as well. If you are using iodine solution to flush with (preferred by most veterinarians), prepare your flush by mixing the iodine solution with the desired amount of water until it is the color of a weak tea. There are also several very good natural antibacterial products on the market for those that prefer to take a more natural approach.

Fill your syringe with your antibacterial flush and insert the tip of your syringe into the abscess. Flush thoroughly to help clear as much of the remaining pus from the abscess as possible. You may need to manually massage the abscess to help drain stubborn pockets. Repeat as many times as necessary to thoroughly clean the abscess pocket (usually 4 or 5 repetitions is sufficient).

Finish by applying your antibacterial ointment around the opening to help keep the area soft and protected from external debris and flies. You can also apply fly repellent to the surrounding area as a deterrent. In most cases, it is best to leave the abscess unwrapped to allow drainage. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics for your horse as well. You should continue flushing the abscess once or twice daily until the wound has filled in sufficiently so that there is no longer a pocket to fit the tip of your syringe into. The healing time will vary greatly depending on the size, type and severity of the abscess involved.

Being an informed owner and preparing your barn with the necessary supplies to handle simple first aide procedures will go a long way in ensuring that your horse has the best possible recovery from unexpected injury or illness. Remember to always consult your veterinarian before starting any treatment plan for your horse.


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