Sole abscess

Veterinary advice should be sought before applying any treatment or vaccine.

Sole Abscess

Subsolar Abscess

A foot/sole abscess, often referred to as a subsolar abscess, is an accumulation of pus beneath the sole of the foot. It is characterized by a sudden onset of non-weight bearing lameness, similar to the severity of a horse with a fracture.

Abscesses are an inflammatory response to an organism (usually bacterial or fungal) or other foreign matter such as gravel, dirt, sand or manure that has got into the inner walls of the hoof. The organism gains access through a misplaced nail or puncture wound on the sole surface of the foot or multiple nail holes.

The horse will continue to be in pain until the accumulation of pus is able to drain from the foot. The initial wound or point of entry of the organism or foreign body into the hoof is not always visible or may have already started to close. If this is the case, then your veterinarian may need to remove a small portion of the frog or sole of the foot using a sharp hoof knife in order to better evaluate the situation. The date of the horse's last tetanus shot should be confirmed to ensure horse is up to date. Otherwise, they will require a tetanus shot.

The goal of treatment is to drain the accumulated pus from the abscess. It is important that during this time, the horse is kept in a clean stall with soft bedding and that the horse is kept comfortable. Usually, with hoof abscesses, once the abscess has drained, horses will show almost immediate relief and are no longer lame on the affected foot.

Once all pain has ceased and abscess drained, the horse can be reshod or a boot applied to prevent further contamination until the wound has completely healed.


Sudden, severe lameness
Increased digital pulse
Positive response to hoof testers
Fluid or discoloration on the sole
Generalized swelling of the lower leg


  • Clinical signs
  • History - was the horse recently shod? Does the horse have any previous history of lameness?
  • Physical exam
  • Radiographs



Removal of the horseshoe followed by stall rest and soaking the foot overnight using a wet-to-dry bandage or iodine-soaked baby diaper, duct-taped or bandaged to the foot.
At least once a day, one of the following should be performed
  • Soaking of the foot with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or an oxyclorsine solution, in a low-rimmed bucket or an empty intravenous fluid bag. If oxyclorsine is used, the bag should be sealed for 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Flushing with dilute iodine or Betadine solution
  • Poultice, Ichthammol or DMSO solution applied to the foot and wrapped with a foot bandage or hospital plate.


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