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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 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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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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