Are Windpuffs Something To Worry About?

Ok, I realize this is not the most exciting question, but it does “haunt” me at times. My 18 hh Hanoverian has windpuffs on his hind fetlocks, quite large ones. So far they have not caused any issues other than getting bigger when humidity increases, at which time he also “stocks-up” more on his hind legs. I’m supplementing him with Glanzen, SmartFlex Repair, Devil’s Claw and Garlic. After a work out I ice his hind legs as well. Is there anything else I should be doing to keep those windpuffs “in check”?Your input is much appreciated. PF, Arizona

Dear PF,

That’s okay, questions don’t have to be exciting to get answered. In fact, sometimes the more common they are the better!

It doesn’t surprise me that an 18 hand horse has windpuffs. “Normal”-sized horses that go into training or that have slightly imperfect conformation can develop these cosmetic blemishes so a big guy like yours hardly stands a chance!

The first rule: do no harm. Remember that windpuffs are harmless fluid swellings of the tendon sheath or joint capsule of the fetlock (ankle) that are not associated with heat, pain or lameness. If your horse has these symptoms, then something else is going on and you need to contact your veterinarian. But if all you’re dealing with is a distended joint or tendon sac, then I would stay conservative in my management. I’ve seen treatments such as drainings and injections cause more harm than good. Basically, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I think you’ve made smart supplement choices: Glanzen for hoof and coat health, SmartFlex Repair for joint and soft tissue health, Devil’s Claw for inflammation (and pain) and Garlic. Glanzen is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids from flax seed, but you could experiment with omega 3s from fish oil to see if you get any more of an anti-inflammatory response.

Icing or cold hosing after a workout sounds like a good practice. Bandaging will usually tighten up the legs, too. Have you experimented with topical products? Test a small area first to make sure your horse doesn’t react, then see if there are any poultices, liniments or other topicals that help reduce the swelling.

Unfortunately, all of these treatments temporarily shrink the puffiness, at best. Probably the best thing you can do for windpuffs long-term is turn your horse out for as long as possible. Standing in a stall will definitely cause fluid to pool in his extremities, leading to “stocking up” and enlarged windpuffs. But if he can spend all day (and all night!) walking around, a lot of that extra fluid will move back into the circulation. Bottom line: don’t stress too much about it—your horse isn’t!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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