Abscesses and Cysts

Image of a white horse's leg with swelling on it.

Cysts and abscesses can both form lumps on a horse’s body. However, they stem from different causes. Infections cause abscesses, which are full of pus that accumulates under the skin. Cysts are typically present from birth or form during a horse’s development. In some cases, a veterinarian will recommend draining or surgery for both cysts and abscesses. If a cyst is not causing your horse pain, your veterinarian might encourage you to leave it alone.

Abscesses

A nail in the hoof, a wound and bacteria are all possible causes of an infection. When your horse has an infection, a lump of damaged white blood cells may form at the infection site. This infected area naturally becomes walled off to isolate the infection. Pressure in this lump usually causes inflammation and pain. You might notice pus, swelling under your horse’s skin, a firm lump, a tender lump, a lump that’s hot to the touch and / or lameness.

If your horse has an abscess, consulting with your veterinarian is critical. Your vet might want to take a pus sample to send to a lab for analysis. Your horse may need antibiotics, treatment with a poultice or other method of draining the abscess. Hoof abscesses may require hoof trimming.

Your horse may feel better immediately after your veterinarian releases pressure in the abscess.

Bone Cysts

The stifle joint is the most common place in a horse’s body for bone cysts to form. This joint, where the femur, tibia and patella meet, is akin to the knee in humans. Less commonly, cysts form in the elbow or in other parts of the horse. Bone cysts are also called subchondral cysts, as they usually form within a joint, underneath the cartilage.

Riders often first notice something is wrong because of intermittent lameness and a shortened stride. About 75 percent of horses diagnosed with bone cysts are under 4 years old. Usually, the cysts form during abnormal development early in a horse’s life, especially if the horse has larger bones or grows faster than the average horse. Poor diet can also contribute to cyst formation, including imbalances between calcium and phosphorus, copper deficiencies or excess zinc.

Uterine Cysts

Older mares who have had several pregnancies and births are the likeliest candidates for uterine cysts. What starts as uterine scar tissue winds up clogging lymphatic drainage channels, causing a fluid backup. Cysts form around this fluid.

Uterine cysts may or may not be serious. A few cysts do not make much difference to a horse’s wellbeing, unless they are very large. If the cysts are too large or numerous, they can form a barrier that blocks semen from entering the uterus. If a mare with major uterine cysts does manage to become pregnant, the cysts can compromise the embryo’s mobility.

In some cases, surgery remedies the uterine cyst problem. If the uterus is healthy, chances are good that the mare can get pregnant again and carry a fetus to term. However, too much scar tissue and adhesions will leave her infertile after surgery.

Keratinized Skin Cysts

Keratinized skin cysts are rare in horses. The two most common types are dermoid cysts and keratomas. Thoroughbreds are the likeliest horses to develop dermoid cysts. These cysts form around hair shafts, usually on the back of the horse’s head or along its spine.

Keratomas most often form in the hoof wall of the horse’s toe, or, more rarely, its heel. Usually caused by a traumatic injury, keratomas can take a while to present themselves. Degradation of bones may eventually cause lameness.

Skin cysts may occur alone or in groups. They are benign. Your veterinarian may want to remove keratinized cysts. Do not do it yourself. Squeezing the pimple-like cysts can release their contents into your horse’s body, causing a serious inflammatory response.

If your horse has any suspicious-looking lumps, is going lame or seems to be in pain, call us today. We will act immediately to optimize your horse’s health.

Location

Find us on the map


map(View Larger Map)

Practice Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

9:30 am-5:00 pm

Tuesday:

9:30 am-5:00 pm

Wednesday:

9:30 am-5:00 pm

Thursday:

9:30 am-5:00 pm

Friday:

9:30 am-5:00 pm

Saturday:

Flexible Schedule

Sunday:

Flexible Schedule

  • "They took great care of my mare! I was able to set up payment over the phone and I got a detailed email with records of what they did and recommendations for future care. I’m pretty impressed with how affordable it was considering the level of care! I’ll definitely be using them from now on."
    Kayleigh Ann L.
  • "Very thorough and just all around wonderful! Took excellent care of my sweet horse!"
    Jennifer C.
  • "For people that take their horses dental health seriously, these are the best care providers & teachers I have found. Their passion about the science of equine dental health is second to none!"
    Dawn B.
  • "Kari,
    Thank you for the great work you did on our horses yesterday. This older mare with the front teeth problem and tongue hanging out is doing great. She is much, much more comfortable eating. Charlie is also doing much better today, visibly more comfortable eating. Thank you for a great job, my horses are so much happier today - makes me feel good to see that."
    Andrea B.
  • "Dear Dr. Marx and Lisa, too,

    This is just to let you know that you have made a huge difference to our old horse's well-being. He is chewing so much better and no longer drops his grain or leaves wads of hay on the ground. Thank you, thank you. We are delighted to have found out about you and the important and great work you do.
    With sincere gratitude,"
    Margot H.
  • "Scott Marx is not only knowledge and talented but he is kind, funny, easy to work with and reasonably priced. You pay for what you get and with Dr. Marx, you get the BEST! He has been my horses’ dentist for 16 years and I hope he will continue to be for the next 16+!"
    Catherine J.
  • "Awesome service- fantastic Equine Dentist!! I will be using them as a regular client."
    Greg S.
  • "Wonderful work. I trust them completely with my horses teeth. Will never use anyone else."
    Jessica P
  • "Dr. Kari Sanderson treated my horse and was wonderful! She explained everything she did and was very patient. I will use them going forward and will recommend them to all of my friends."
    Jessica S.
  • "Very professional and caring. Dr. Sanderson and her assistant took the time my gelding needed to make him comfortable. In addition, she took the time to show me everything she saw, talked through what was done, and future recommendations. Thank you so much for coming to take care of my boy!"
    Audrey A.