Support for Lymphangitis

I have a horse that is just getting over lymphangitis. He has now had 3 severe bouts of it. He is on very good feed, but I am looking for something to boost his immune system. Any suggestions? Thanks. TV, Arizona

I was wondering if you could comment at all about maintenance strategies for a horse with lymphangitis. Thank you. MS, Massachusetts

My horse has gotten Equine Lymphangitis three times. I am doing research on what would help build his immune system so he will be able to fight these infections on his own in the future and hopefully get his lymphatic system functioning properly. He is stabled/boarded in Maryland so he is out on what grass we have because of the drought during the day and eating grass/timothy hay at night. He gets 2 scoops of 10% protein pellets per day as well as 1 scoop of Equine Senior a day. Both products are manufactured by Purina. VS, Maryland

Dear TV, MS and VS,

Lymphangitis, or inflammation and blockage of the lymphatic system, can be a frustrating condition to manage, as the three of you know from personal experience. Unless you’re dealing with the more severe form of the condition, ulcerative lymphangitis (not uncommon in a dry western state such as Arizona), caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, you may never know what caused the original limb swelling in your horses. And unfortunately, many horses that develop “big leg” or “fat leg” are predisposed to limb swelling again and again.

Because some experts believe this impairment of normal lymph drainage is due to too much of an immune response rather than too little, I’m going to suggest some supplements that support a healthy immune system and reduce inflammation naturally. No boosting or building. So here’s my list:

Omega 3 fatty acids—research shows restoring the balance of the anti-inflammatory omega 3s vs. the pro-inflammatory omega 6s may improve certain medical conditions

MSM—a naturally occurring compound that helps fight inflammation

Devil’s Claw, Boswellia, Bromelain, Yucca—all potent inflammation-fighters

Adaptogenic herbs—plants with substances that dial the body back to normal, they strengthen systems compromised by stress and protect against a wide variety of stressful influences

I’m sure you’re already providing excellent supportive nursing care, including hot and/or cold therapy, careful bandaging when appropriate, poulticing to draw out fluid, and non-steroidals such as “bute” to relieve pain and swelling. And as soon as your horses are able, light exercise to stimulate circulation. Antibiotics are controversial and should only be given on the advice of your veterinarians. The only other suggestion I can give you all is to keep your horses and their surroundings as clean and dry as possible, because some cases appear to be associated with a contaminated environment and equipment.

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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One comment on “Support for Lymphangitis
  1. michaela ryan says:

    5 yrs ago pegion fever spread thru our area [morrison colo.] 2 horses got it in their shealth. 1 horse we were able to puncture and drain, all was fine. 2nd horse not so lucky, he never developed a site to puncture and to this day his shealth is enormous.in winter the size decreases, heat makes it larger and from his sheath large tentacles [they get up to 20" long and are 2" wide plus protrude from his sides .5 to 1"] his sheath looks like an octipus head with all it’s arms coming up his sides and across his chest. he was in the mtns. for 3 months [9500'..we live at 6300'] and the swelling almost disappeared, of course bringing him home brought it all back. twice i’ve held a flashing LED of multi colored light spectrum including infrared,named ‘light force’ on his sheath which made his chest swell appr. 3″deep it was massive and hard, then it became covered with weeping sores which i washed 2x a day and put a antibiotic cream all over. after 2 days his chest was normal and his sheath was smaller than it had in 5 years.but it never fully goes away and i’m going crazy i don’t know what to do. ANY help/advise would be wonderful.

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