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Equine Health Resource

Abdominal or Internal Abscess, Generally

Abscesses can form within abdominal organs due to bacteria carried in blood, or by direct infection of tissues via the intestine.

Abdominal abscesses are much more common in young horses, probably because blood borne bacteria are more common in these horses.

Abscesses can also result from infection caused by foreign body penetration into the abdomen. Abscess can result in weight loss, colic, fever, depression and a variety of other signs of illness.

The most common organism isolated from internal abscesses is Streptococcus equi (Bastard Strangles) but many other organisms have been cultured. In general, the disease process differs in younger and older horses.

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

Guarded. These cases can be very hard to resolve completely. The prognosis is much better in young horses. In adults, they can be a sign of underlying disease in the abdomen, even cancer in some cases.

Abscesses can cause life threatening peritonitis if they rupture, and can also cause massive bleeding if the infectious process invades large abdominal blood vessels.

Long-term, adhesions (spot welds) between intestine and organs is a severe complication affecting survival. In a study on internal abscess factors and survival, only 25% of affected adult horses survived to discharge from the hospital.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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