Weird Sore Following Badly Swollen Withers? **Update Post 17**
Alright, so maybe a month ago when my friend went out to the barn she discovered that her mare’s withers were really swollen. I was worried about a fracture or something, but the swelling went down. A sore then developed. She talked to her vet and passed on some pictures. He said her back was most likely just badly bruised- and to keep Neosporin on it and to give her some time off (until around Jan.).
The soreness in her back went away and the sore started to heal. Today she discovered the sore was a lot worse- yellow puss included. She told me that the vet mentioned that it was going to get worse before it got better.
Is this mare fairly new to your friend? I ask because of the white hairs indicative of a previous occurrence on her withers. Fistulous withers can be chronic and not to be taken lightly because it's caused by a highly infectious bacteria. Please tell your friend to have the vet out to culture that infection as it's possibly contagious. Either way, it has to be treated properly.
Thanks for all the replies- I actually came across "fistulous withers" when I did a search in regards to her mare and mentioned it to her. Symptoms matched but I gave her a link to an article on it before the sore got a lot worse so she thought she'd continue doing what her vet said. I really hope she'll now get a vet out to get it cultured. Thanks again!
Sounds like fistulous withers to me, too. Your friend needs to be careful as humans can catch this. Call a different vet if the first one isn't willing to look into this further. Like Grataan said, not something you want to 'wait and see' on.
The main thing to remember is that the skin over the wither sits over bone and has a limited blood supply and is in a difficult spot to heal. It is common to have a serous (yellowish) clear fluid discharged from the fistula which is the body's way of dealing with a chronic lack of healing. Dressings are well nigh impossible. Even after it seems to be well healed, a casual roll can open the wound again.
If you can't keep the horse un-blanketed you will have to keep the neck area of the rug up off the wither.
I found the most satisfactory way of managing a fistula was to glue a pad of sponge rubber/foam on either side of the centre seam at the wither. It should be positioned so that the neck of the cover does not touch - think of a well fitting saddle with 2" clearance over the spine. If it can, the serous fluid will create a crust and scab and the hole will gradually fill and heal over.
It requires patience and perseverance, but can be fixed.
Also not to be ruled out is an object that has become embedded beneath the skin. A friend had a horse that had this going on and off for a while. An X-ray finally revealed a tine from a hay fork was embedded in the tissue and had to be removed. So if the treatment doesn't work, consider checking for foreign objects.
Where am I and what am I doing in this handbasket?
yes, something walled off or a sequestrum is a definite possibility. Also, on the off chance the horse has been wearing a shoulder guard w/a seam or a badly fitting blanket for an extended time (seems early in the season for that, but worth mentioning). that could also create that kind of sore. I've seen them sort of develop a living cap of mane/hair on top and fester below until they get almost as oogy (thank YOU shoulder guard on 17'2 hand horse in dark barn where i actually couldn't SEE up there).
it's not the edge of the earth, but you can see it from here
I've never seen a true fistula. If that's what they look like..
My first thought too upon READING just the description was something that abcessed out.
My gelding had a puncture wound when he was young that the puncture was at the top, so it never drained (until the bottom *finally* abcessed) and to clean it it was the most purulent, nasty pus I'd ever, ever in my entire horse life dealt with. I've a very strong constitution, and it made me gag a couple times.
I sure would want a culture on it... and possibly Xray as folks have said to rule out imbedded object.
My friend took her horse to the vet today- the vet told her that her horse had severe trauma to her back. The vet thought she must have rolled or something, making matters worse. She’s getting oral medicine daily and topical 2x a day (of course gloves irritate this horses’ skin, so my friend cannot use gloves) and they will re-evaluate in a week. Her vet mentioned it would probably take her a few months to fully recover. I was surprised when my friend told me her vet mentioned that massage / chiro work wouldn’t be necessary.
Rolling in a rocky field or hitting a large rock can cause damage, even to the point of breaking the spine. Or is could be poor saddle fit and nobody noticing, or blanket pressure over a period of time. Hard spot to heal.
One of my client's horses had a very similar wound. It went on for almost 18 months! The wound culture found four types of bacteria and the horse was put on SMZ's, then IV Gent. Nothing worked. They ended up putting in a JP drain, which did not help either. Finally, the owners were about to give up and I asked if I could play with the wound. I put the horse back on SMZ's, and started using DMSO topically with Ichthamol. I also put the horse on steriods. Within a month, the wound was almost completely healed. We are four months out and the wound healed without any further problems. My client's horse was MUCH worse than the one in the pictures. He had a huge hump over and to the side of both withers. It drained all the time and had a horrid smell. X-rays and ultrasounds were negative. The veins across his shoulders became enlarged. It was a mess and I can't believe he healed.
I also gave him a double dose of Equimax every two weeks x 3 doses. Honestly, I'm not sure out of all the treatments what helped the most, but I don't care. The horse is healed and out showing again.
Member of the "I Ride A Chestnut Thoroughbred Mare, So You Don't Scare Me Clique"