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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov. 25, 2004
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    Greenville, SC
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    923

    Default Abcess causing fetlock/joint swelling?

    So my sound-as-a-dollar 19yo TB has been having soundness issues since the summer. It started with her getting loose while loading and running like a loonie around the property. She had a swollen left ankle that seemed to get better, but she's been unsound off and on for the past few months.

    The free leaser, D, is an experienced horsewoman and she's had the vet out a few times. Nothing has shown up on the ultrasounds done, so no tears or anything. They just recently moved to a new barn and the BO palpated the coronet band and said he felt a pulse, so he was thinking a possible abcess.

    Now she is on stall rest and they are soaking the foot, etc. to see if that draws it out. If it is an abcess, I would prefer that she be allowed to move out to help blow the abcess, and the property does have a very nice round pen, but she is not under my control at the moment.

    D is going to have Xrays of the foot done shortly, and that will likely be as far as she will go as she's already put in quite a bit of $ and effort. Mare is pasture sound and will happily run and buck in TO, but is not sound enough for riding as people can see a noticeably gimp. I'm fine with getting her back and retiring her if need be, but I thought I read on a thread somewhere that an abcess can cause the whole ankle/cannon to swell before it blows.
    Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep. 21, 2011
    Location
    Lambertville, MI
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    127

    Default

    Yes, I have seen puffiness in the ankle with an abscess, but not big swelling.

    Personally I am not a fan of stall resting a horse for an abscess, but I think you need an answer first, which it sounds like may come shortly. Is the vet doing a block before the x-ray? Best just to make sure that's where it is first.

    When I dealt with this recently, I tried a new method instead of soaking, which is using an epsom salt poultice then adding cotton on top, then a diaper (wasn't in instructions I read, I just do that), then vetrap, then duct tape and a hoof wrap. You can leave it on for 48 to 72 hours at a time. Not sure if it was coincidence but my abscess popped during that period (after a month!). Plus it was just so much easier than soaking.

    I actually bought a kit online that was $5 more than the price of the hoof wrap and included everything I needed to wrap - epsom salt poultice, vetwrap, hoof wrap, cotton - everything except the diaper which probably isn't necessary and the duct tape.

    Actually even when I soak I just soak the diaper in epsom salt water and wrap it on for 24 hours, so much easier than making a horse stand in a bucket.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 24, 2006
    Location
    Seattle, WA
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    Default

    I have seen abscesses do a lot of things, including causing a horse's leg to blow up like a balloon all the way up the leg. And if there is swelling, it's not uncommon to see it up past the fetlock. And unlike the above poster, I have seen pretty decent swelling....much more than "just puffiness."

    I also do a wrap like explained above. I slather on epsom salt paste, wrap a diaper around it, affix one of those 12-hour heat packs to the bottom of the diaper (or near wherever I think the abscess is), wrap all of that in vet wrap, and then a coat of duct tape and gorilla tape. I usually leave it in place for 48 hours.

    Hope that the x-rays show you something. I agree that blocking the foot/leg might be a good first step...especially since this has been going on for several months. But I do have a mare who was on-and-off for about 6 weeks with a bad abscess. We blocked her (which was inconclusive) and finally resorted to x-rays with my vet's warning that the odds of seeing an abscess on x-ray were not entirely in our favor. But it showed up nicely, and as soon as my farrier dug out the massive abscess in her toe she was back to sound again (though it required a hospital plate over the shoe to keep it all clean for quite some time).

    Good luck!
    __________________________________
    Forever exiled in the NW.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    May. 6, 2007
    Location
    Napanee ON
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    4,211

    Default

    I have seen it too. My 4 year old had a bad abcess and I thought he bowed his tendon, with antibotics the abcess cleared and his leg went down to normal.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov. 25, 2004
    Location
    Greenville, SC
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    Default

    Thanks guys.

    I know it's unlikely, but I hope when they do Xrays they can spot an abscess, just to be definitive.

    Crossing my fingers I get a text from D saying "What a motherload of an abscess!"
    Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov. 15, 2009
    Posts
    381

    Default

    Could be an abscess, but could also be a chip in the fetlock - if they don't see an abscess in the hoof x-ray, will they x-ray the fetlock?



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov. 25, 2004
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    Greenville, SC
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by KentuckyTBs View Post
    Could be an abscess, but could also be a chip in the fetlock - if they don't see an abscess in the hoof x-ray, will they x-ray the fetlock?
    That's what I thought when she first injured herself, because the swelling would go down but then she'd go lame again after enough work!

    I'll post an update once I hear from D, I hope it can be good news.
    Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb. 15, 2004
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    Ontario
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    I have posted before about a horse at our barn who became 3 legged lame and at first everyone thought it was an abscess. He was kept in an indoor pen (16 x 24 maybe), but he still would not move. After weeks of soaking, bandaging, etc., the young owner finally called the vet (her aunt liked to play vet and kept telling her it was just an abscess). Xrays were taken which showed infection in the fetlock, hence the swelling. To make a long story short... young owner and her mom finally told the aunt to go fly a kite and took the horse for surgery... too late. The horse was euthanized on the table.
    It did present like an abscess at first but after almost a month??? no improvement at all...
    We did not get all the details because nobody wanted to ask a very upset young girl, but the vets both said that prompt action would have avoided the drama..

    At least your mare got prompt attention and does not seem to be 3 legged lame. She is lucky you are willing and able to retire her, but I hope you find out what is bothering her.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun. 17, 2001
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    down the road from bar.ka
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    Default

    IME, if an abcess has traveled up above the coronet and caused swelling? The horse will often be running a fever, be a little lethargic and show other signs of the infection. Has this mare had a fever at all? Any heat around the swelling? If it is an infection, like an abcess, there should be heat and tenderness around the soft tissue swellling. Usually if they get above the coronet, they burst pretty quick if it is an abcess looking for a place to drain.

    Concerns me this swelling has come and gone and she has been sometimes lame and sometimes not...usually an abcess hurts like heck and they are lame and stay that way until it clears. It can reoccur after it breaks and drains but never had one come and go with no observable drainage to relive the pressure.

    Keep us posted when the vet comes and take the x rays.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug. 1, 2002
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    Georgia
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    Quote Originally Posted by findeight View Post
    IME, if an abcess has traveled up above the coronet and caused swelling? The horse will often be running a fever, be a little lethargic and show other signs of the infection. Has this mare had a fever at all? Any heat around the swelling? If it is an infection, like an abcess, there should be heat and tenderness around the soft tissue swellling. Usually if they get above the coronet, they burst pretty quick if it is an abcess looking for a place to drain.

    Concerns me this swelling has come and gone and she has been sometimes lame and sometimes not...usually an abcess hurts like heck and they are lame and stay that way until it clears. It can reoccur after it breaks and drains but never had one come and go with no observable drainage to relive the pressure.

    Keep us posted when the vet comes and take the x rays.
    Ditto. The times I have seen this, is when the horse was also acting lethargic, running a fever etc. In every case the horse has needed antibiotics, along with the usual Abcess treatment.

    In this case, I wonder if its really the abscess causing the swelling, since the horse has been off for so long? I too, would wonder about a chip, or something else going on. It could even be an infection of the coffin bone, etc.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov. 25, 2004
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    Greenville, SC
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freebird! View Post
    Ditto. The times I have seen this, is when the horse was also acting lethargic, running a fever etc. In every case the horse has needed antibiotics, along with the usual Abcess treatment.

    In this case, I wonder if its really the abscess causing the swelling, since the horse has been off for so long? I too, would wonder about a chip, or something else going on. It could even be an infection of the coffin bone, etc.
    Update: The latest vet check showed nothing, and they Xrayed the foot/leg. I was hoping for something to show up, but unfortunately nothing has

    D sent an email to the owner and copied me on it, and we are waiting to see what she says. I don't think she wants Lucy back as she couldn't use her for riding, lessons, or showing, but she could surprise me.
    Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars



  12. #12
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    Mar. 24, 2010
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    Tucson
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    Default

    I really hope you're able to figure out what's wrong and help her out! Poor girl.


    Just on the discussion of swelling and abscesses:
    My horse had an abscess this summer and it was my first time ever having a horse get one (I got my first horse 27 years ago - we're in a dry climate!). In his case it was from a close nail - which allowed infection in as the hoof grew and pressed on the nail, rather than the more common abscesses which aren't exactly an infection but the body trying to expel something. It was actually completely textbook when I read about it later, and I had known it was likely an abscess when I had the vet out but wanted to make sure since I had no experience. He was very swollen from the knee down, and extremely lame. The vet pulled his shoe and after the puddle drained from the nail hole the swelling went down a significant amount right away. He had antibiotic shots but when it started to swell again a few days later had to go on oral antibiotics to get rid of it.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine
    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed



  13. #13
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    Jul. 24, 2006
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    Seattle, WA
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    Quote Originally Posted by findeight View Post
    Concerns me this swelling has come and gone and she has been sometimes lame and sometimes not...usually an abcess hurts like heck and they are lame and stay that way until it clears. It can reoccur after it breaks and drains but never had one come and go with no observable drainage to relive the pressure.
    I think this depends greatly on the horse. The mare I mentioned above was back and forth for the whole 6 weeks of her abscess. She'd be 3-legged for a couple of days and the sound for a couple of days and then barely lame for a week and then sound again and then 3-legged again. She never had any swelling, heat, or pulse, and there was no observable drainage at any point of the abscess (it was in a deep spot in her toe).

    My TB went through a period of time where he would get an abscess (stereotypically crappy TB feet in our wet environment) and would be 3-legged for a day or two (often with swelling and also with heat and a pulse) and then go sound for a few days, then back to abscess presentation, then back to sound. Then 4-6 weeks later the abscess would erupt above his fetlock (with LOTS of swelling and heat in the leg). Never lethargic or feverish.

    My point being that I think an abscess can present just about any which way, which is why most vets and farriers (and everyone else?) tend to assume an abscess first.

    But I do agree that an infection will usually result in heat and tenderness around the infection site. In all of the cases where I've had horses swell up like a balloon because of an abscess, they've been completely non-reactive in the leg.
    __________________________________
    Forever exiled in the NW.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov. 8, 2006
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    A vet really needs to do a nerve block to see if the mare even has pain in the foot. Did this vet atleast use hoof testers to see if there is tenderness?

    A pasture sound horse with a puffy ankle that gets sore with riding does not have an abscess (even though an radiograph doesn't rule one out). There is something else going on in the leg and a basic lameness exam with blocks should atleast tell you where she hurts.

    Also, an ultrasound does not rule out soft tissue injury or tear! There are more structures that a vet can't see or can't see well then there are structures that are viewable on ultrasound.

    Good luck with her to you and the owner.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov. 25, 2004
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    Greenville, SC
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    Thanks for the knowledge and replies, everyone!

    I'm waiting to hear what her owner's decision is. If Lucy does come with me to SC, I will ask D to give me a concise list of everything done, diagnostic and treatment wise, so I can possibly try a few things of my own.

    Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars



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