Treating Swollen Legs

We are pleased to have a guest veterinarian provide an answer today. At SmartPak, we realize the importance of staying on top of the latest research, nutritional products and horse health issues, while helping to promote increased involvement of veterinarians in the nutritional management of horses. Dr. Jay Merriam was kind enough to respond to this question for us.


I have a horse that had a severe infection in his left hind leg (hock to hoof) back in May, it was doubled in size, we thought we were going to have to put him down, but he pulled out of it. My issue that I have is his leg is still really big (hock to hoof), it does go down some when he is ridden, but it usually stays pretty big must of the time. My vet says it is because the skin stretched so much when it was swollen, so it will always be big from now on. I am just concerned that this is going to cause some issues later on. Right now my horse is having the season off, to have some down time, and it is bigger than ever. I was wondering if you have any suggestions or if you think I should have someone else look at it. – EC, Vermont

Dear EC,
This sort of injury is a constant source of discomfort to the animal and must be managed in the early stages to prevent long term lameness. There are a lot of things you can do still, depending on a specific diagnosis and treatment plan.

First, think of exercise as “physical therapy” and set out a plan. I think that we need to minimize the scarring and increase the circulation to the area. The best way is a combination of regular exercise (other than turn out which is also good), therapeutic wrapping and support and, if available, Dynamic Compression. We often use and prescribe a Game Ready unit which is a therapeutic wrap with a compression / cold therapy bandage that operates with a pump and bandage system that has been adapted from human athletic therapy. We also in some cases use Regional Limb Perfusion to shrink the swelling and couple that with anti-inflammatories. Every case is different, but we encourage aggressive intervention early on to minimize long term scarring. Good Luck,
Jay Merriam, DVM
Massachusetts Equine Clinic

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+

Posted in Lameness

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2 comments on “Treating Swollen Legs
  1. Tahi says:

    My horse got attacked and jumped the fence but bashed her right hind leg. She loves being worked but I have been walking her around about twice aday and I haven’t been giving her much feed. She’s getting bored tied up all day. Should I ride her or leave her for awhile. This happened on Tuesday night
    Tahi webster

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Tahi, I would absolutely recommend you reach out to your veterinarian in regards to your mare’s leg and overall health. Given that there is a chance she sustained injury during the event you described, she should really be examined by a veterinarian to determine the best way to address her potential injuries. – Dr. Lydia Gray

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