This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links, with NO additional cost to you.
If you are caring for footed animals, eventually you will encounter a foot abscess. Horses tend to be the most likely to both having a foot abscess and developing complications from it. Cattle can also develop foot abscess, as can sheep or goat, but not as commonly. All animals will appear more tender or lame on the affected foot, and the foot will feel hot to the touch. How it is treated after that depends on the animal.
Cloven footed animals, (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.), are fairly simple to treat, if you use antibiotics. If the foot abscess is not treated, it can spread to other tissues, joint, tendon, or bone. If this happens the animal is as good as dead, as treating is very difficult. When in doubt consult a veterinarian with livestock experience. Typically, the antibiotic treatment is a Liquamycin or Biomycin. Most cloven animals are difficult catch and get to stand still long enough to soak a foot. If your animal is that calm, you can use some of the horse treatment methods.
Horses are a bit different. If is much easier to soak a horse foot. It is also much more important to get the infection taken care of. When a horses foot is inflamed, as in the case of an abscess, the laminae (the glue that holds the outside of the foot to the inside), also become inflamed. Sever cases of this turn into laminitis. If this happens to a great extent, the coffin bone will rotate and poke through the sole of the horse’s foot. A horse in this condition will never live a comfortable life and should be humanly euthanized.
To treat a foot abscess, the horse needs to have basic ground manners and be halter broke. If it is not, refer to the cloven animal’s treatment and watch closely. You will need a hoof pick, bucket, Epson salts, cold clean water, a size 3 or bigger diaper (depending on the size of hoof), vet wrap, and duct tape.
First catch the horse and gently lead to a level area close to a water source, a hose is quite helpful here. Clean the horse’s foot out with a hoof pick, then use the hose to rinse the hoof and lower leg. Add ¼ - ½ cup of epson salt to the bucket and fill with water (an ice cream pail works in a pinch). Gently place the horse’s hoof into the bucket of water and carefully hold it there. The first time the horse may jump a bit but should soon relax into the water. The epson salt helps draw the infection out. Soak for 10 minutes or as long as the horse will allow.
The key now is to keep the hoof clean and allow the abscess to drain/work out, this is where the diaper comes in. Place the diaper onto the bottom of the hoof, back of the diaper to the heal of the hoof and fasten around the foot.
Next wrap the foot with vet wrap, over the diaper. You will wrap the foot over the top and bottom of the foot, covering the diaper completely, with multiple layers. If the horse is 3-legged lame, you will want to just order a case of vet wrap. It is good to keep on hand for all animal injuries and works well for human band aids too.
Finally, take the roll of duct tape and wrap over the top and bottom of the foot, just like you did with the vet wrap. You will use at least half the roll. Again, have several rolls on hand.
Depending on how lame the horse is, how frequently you need to repeat. Watch the horse and you will see. At first 1 time per day is probably needed. As the horse improves, you can extend that time. Continue treatment until the horse is no longer lame. If you see no improvement, consult the veterinarian.