Before this past spring, the only advice I could have given anyone about dealing with hoof abscesses would have been soaking in Epsom salt. Not because I had actually ever done it, but because anyone and everyone had heard that remedy.
However, I have now had the title of "Abscess Veteran" been bestowed upon me by my farrier, so I thought I would share with you some "Absces Do's and Don'ts" that I learned by trial and error (lots and lots of errors). Keep in mind to take everything I say with a grain of salt. I'm not in any way, shape, or form a veterinarian, and I only can speak from personal experience:)
--PLEASE for the love of all that is good and wonderful, BE PREPARED. At the very least, buy a pair of hoof testers and know how to use them. Have a bag of Epsom salt in your possession. Two very easy things.
--Invest in two products: Animalintex Hoof Poultice Pads (used to help draw out an abscess, think Epsom salt hoof soak on steroids) and Magic Cushion Hoof Packing (used post-rupture to keep dirt/debris out of abscess hole)
--Soak offending foot in warm water (hottest you can comfortably put your own hand in) and Epsom salt to help draw out the abscess.
--Pick up a a tube of ToDay from Tractor Supply. Yes, wet cow mastitis meds. It really is great for shoving in a ruptured abscess to keep the area from getting re-infected (FYI also awesome as a thrush treatment).
--Don't be scared to get your vet and farrier on board, at the very least theyll do wonders for your anxiety
--Expect to go broke on Epsom Salt and Duct tape #horseownerprobs
--I BEG YOU not to let anyone dig a hole in your horse's foot. Not a vet, not a farrier. PLEASE. Learn from my mistake and let the abscess work its way out on its own. Chances are, when you dig into the foot, even if you hit pus, you aren't draining the whole thing. Therefore, the pressure that the abscess needs to burst is gone, but the infection remains...Missy had two abscesses. The foot that we dug into took a month and a half to heal. The foot that ruptured on its own took a week.
--After the abscess ruptures, don't soak the foot anymore. While Epsom salt does wonder to get an abscess to the point of rupturing, soaking a foot with an open abscess can introduce bacteria into the wound and cause another infection to form
--Dont try to keep the horse on any form of stall rest or try to limit his mobility. Movement is GOOD for abscesses and is needed for them to rupture (however, I don't condone riding lame horses)
--Don't get caught up in any sort of time frame. The lucky people deal with an abscess for a week or two. The unlucky people dealing with them for 3.5 months (raises hands and grudgingly yells "Me!"). Depending on the location/cause/other external factors, the time frame will vary. Don't be in a hurry because you'll only end up disappointed.
To Bute or Not to Bute?!
Phenylbutazone is an NSAID--a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, so there are big arguments about whether or not it is contraindicated with hoof abscesses. Many people feel that it prolongs an abscess and will inhibit it from rupturing as fast (because it is an anti-inflammatory), but as my vet explained it, if a horse is in a lot of pain they aren't going to want to move around and use the foot because it hurts. The horse needs to be active for the sake of healing, so making them more comfortable with a little a gram or two of bute is probably worth it.
*** Note: You NEED to be sure that what your dealing with is a hoof abscess before buting. Pain keeps horses from hurting themselves further and you don't want to take away that safeguard without knowing what you are dealing with (I.E. the best option is always consulting a vet)