Earlier today, we had a chance to go back and see Crown the Cat. The barn help talked to us and let us know that she is indeed suffering from an abscess in her right front hoof. Overall, she appears to be relatively comfortable and recovering well. The hope is to get her back to the track in the next few days.
Video of Crown the Cat
More Information on Abscesses from http://www.horsechannel.com
Q. What is an abscess?
A. A hoof abscess is an infection within the hoof in an area called the lamina. The lamina consists of hard and soft sections, designated the insensitive and sensitive lamina, respectively. The hard lamina is essentially the hoof capsule, and the soft lamina is the tissue that connects the hoof capsule to the bone, also known as the white line.
Q. How do abscesses develop?
A. Most often the signs of an abscess are dramatic and sudden. Sometimes a horse can start out moderately lame and become very lame fast. Abscesses can develop many different ways. The most common is at the surface when an area of the sole becomes compromised, and bacteria are able to get under the surface of the hard lamina. Once under the protective barrier of the hard lamina, the bacteria find themselves in the perfect growing environment—warm and moist (and plenty of food from the blood supply to the hoof). As they grow, bacteria produce toxins that actually eat away healthy tissue, allowing more bacteria to invade additional tissue. This ongoing assault often leads to a pocket forming to accommodate the increasing bacteria and pus.
Since the bacterial invasion starts in the insensitive hard lamina, your horse is pain free, and you won’t notice the strong bacteria colony forming within the hard hoof capsule. If the bacteria develop enough, however, they can move out of the hard insensitive lamina into the soft sensitive lamina. This is when the horse’s body realizes there’s a problem.
The body’s first reaction to bacteria is to treat them like foreign objects and try to kill them with white blood cells and antibodies. White blood cells latch on to bacteria and release pockets of destructive components, which kill them. Unfortunately the destructive components of these white blood cells can also harm healthy hoof tissue of the sensitive lamina. Another job of white blood cells is to clean up dead tissue: as tissue is being destroyed by bacteria, more white blood cells are being summoned to the site for clean up. This whole process of white blood cell response is called inflammation.
The result of the body’s retaliation is a collection of dead, dying and growing bacteria, lots of white blood cells and dead tissue. Most often all of this material is fluid like, creamy or thin in texture and often gray or black in color. In the medical world it’s called purulent material, but is most commonly known as pus.
Since the hoof is a rigid structure, as pus develops, it starts to cause pressure within the hoof. This, along with the inflammation occurring in the sensitive lamina, causes pain. Sometimes there is so much pain that the horse will barely put his hoof down. This is when trouble becomes apparent.
Q. How do you care for an abscess?
A. Thankfully, abscesses are for the most part easy to treat once they have been diagnosed. The goal of treatment is to expose the infection, flush it out as much as possible and keep the area draining so that another abscess can’t form. Once the abscess is exposed, either on the solar surface or at the coronary band, the area is flushed with antiseptic to kill the bacteria and clear all of the pus out of the tract or pocket. The hoof is then usually soaked in a warm Epsom salts solution to help draw out and kill more of the bacteria. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicine, such as bute, are given to relieve the pain and to decrease inflammation. Occasionally oral, intramuscular, intravenous or topical (on the abscess itself) antibiotics are used. The average down time for the horse is five to 10 days.
Glad to hear Crown the Cat is on her road to recovery. I look forward to her next race, hopefully Canterbury can reopen soon!