An abscess can be located on the horse's body, or on their hoof (see hoof abscess, below). Abscesses can be caused from injury (such as a puncture wound), or illness (such as Strangles).
An abscess is caused from an infection under the surface. When the body walls off the antigen to allow the white cells to fight it, this encapsulated area can become an abscess. Due to the pressure created, the abscess may be painful to the touch.
If you suspect your horse has an abscess, it is important to seek the advice of a licensed veterinarian, as prescription antibiotics may be required. It is important to keep the area clean and free from pests, such as flies, until your vet can take a look. Depending on the size, location, and severity of the abscess, the veterinarian may need to lance (cut open) and drain the abscess.
A hoof abscess is similar to an abscess on a horse's body, although the treatment is generally slightly different.
Hoof abscesses are most commonly caused by a puncture wound to the bottom of the foot, although there are several other causes, such as an injury to the coronet band or hoof wall. If a hoof abscess goes untreated, there can be permanent hoof damage which may cause permanent lameness. Any hoof abscess has a high likelihood of causing some level of temporary lameness.
Often, soaking a hoof in warm water and Epsom salts, iodine, or other solutions (as recommended by your veterinarian) may help to draw out the infection and reduce the subsequent swelling.