Skin Infection (Boil) in Horses

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 8, 2008


A boil, the result of an infection in the skin, is similar to an abscess. It starts out as a small bump and grows over time to become a larger boil that may seep puss. Eventually, a boil will scab over.

Boils are very painful and can even cause temporary lameness in some horses. It is important to locate and treat boils as soon as possible to prevent the spread of infection.

Symptoms and Types

The signs for a boil are fairly easy to recognize and include:

  • Lesion(s) on the skin
  • A break in the skin
  • A small bump or papule
  • Edema (or swelling caused by trapped fluid)


An infection of the hair follicle or skin is the primary cause of a boil. However, bacteria such as Staphylococci or poor hygiene habits can also lead to the condition.


A boil is easily diagnosed by a veterinary professional or a person experienced with working with horses. The veterinarian will make a thorough examination of the horse’s coat to check for boils, breaks in the skin, other lesions, or wounds.



Treatment varies on a case-by-case basis, but boils are not usually hard to treat. The veterinarian will likely immerse or wipe the boil with hot water to encourage it to rupture. After it ruptures, antibiotic cream can prevent the spread of infection. If there is more than one boil, the same process will apply to the other boils as well.

Living and Management

Boils are not a life-threatening ailment for horses, but care must be taken to ensure that the lesion heals properly and the skin around it is not affected.


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