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Leg issue: When to get the vet?**UPDATE 1st post

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  • Leg issue: When to get the vet?**UPDATE 1st post

    *Thanks for all the great advice and happily the vet gave us the all clear today After thorough exam, palpation, flexion tests, and longeing, vet saw no reason not to return to work. Feels my horse knocked himself or something and that extremely minor residual fill is possible hematoma that is taking time leaving. Massaging the area and slow return to work was in order. He said he'd "feel guilty" charging me for ultrasound as no visual or digital signs pointed to tendon issues. Said if he couldn't make my horse sore from the serious flexing and prodding of 20+ years of practice, the U/S would not pick up anything either. PHEW!! Happy news

    My horse came in from turnout last week with a slight filling on the outside lower part of his front cannon bone. The swollen area started near the fetlock joint and about 3 inches above it. Kind of firm swelling, no major heat, but hard to tell with our extreme summer. I flexed the joint and squeezed the suspensory ligament and all around the inflammation - hard. No reaction. Farrier happened to be out and said he's seen lots of similar legs as horses have been stomping or running from the flies, etc.

    I cold hosed and buted and it looked much better by the 3rd day. Have been just handwalking and horse isn't lame when jogged. After 6 days it's "almost" normal. No one at my barn can see anything now, but I can. My trainer could see what I meant when she saw it on the 5th day and was on the fence on how worried I should be. If she doesn't see 100% improvement by day 3, she takes her horse to the equine clinic. She's concerned about strains turning into tears, etc. and is very aggressive about diagnosing and treating. There are other trainers at my barn who may wait up to a couple weeks for "minor" leg issues (including visible lameness) to subside with basic home treatments before going to the vet. And if a horse trots off sound after a leg is pretty much normal, they go right back to riding (and or jumping) schedule. Sometimes with negative results...sometimes not.

    Now if money were no object, I'd haul my horse to the hospital, but I'm not in the top 1%. How do YOU decide when it's a mild issue? I was going to start back to work VERY lightly walking and trotting over the course of a week and really watch and feel for anything unusual. Now I'm scared that I'm not being as cautious as my respected trainer, though everyone else at the barn thinks I'm a hypochondriac. WWYD?
    Last edited by Lusoluv; Jul. 30, 2012, 06:00 PM.
    Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...

  • #2
    If there is a tendon injury and you keep him in work, he could have a career ending injury. If this were a retiree, I wouldn't bother getting it looked at. Since this is your primary horse, I would get an ultrasound from a good lameness vet to make sure all is well.


    • #3
      I feel your pain, I had the same thing happen to my mare. Outside front of the right cannon right at the fetlock. No heat, palpated the crap out of it, no reaction. Not lame at any gait. I am a college student, I pay for all my expenses + my pones. I didnt call the vet for a few reasons.

      A. I didn't want to call the vet out because I couldn't spend $300+ to hear that she needed a week off, buted, iced at least once a day, and sweated at night. And re-evaluate. I worked at a dressage barn for 2 years and unless the horse was lame this was the procedure. And guess what, the BO probably saved a good couple thousand doing this.

      B. My farrier was coming out and I had him look at it. He seemed to think it was the same thing I did, she didnt actually injure the tendon, just the tendon sheath, which in his experience is not a huge deal. And to do what I was already doing, hand walking, bute, ice, sweat, and I use DMSO as well. Once the swelling is down continue work.

      C. If I am going to call the vet out, I might as well spend the money and go to a clinic where I can get her ulrasounded and x-rayed in one fell swoop. Something the vets in our area don't have, we have to go to UC Davis.

      My horse is sound, the swelling is gone and she is back in full work. If I had the funds, I would be getting a full workup on her but that is not the case.

      So I would bute, ice as much as you can, sweat if you can (this and icing helped most), DMSO, and work lightly, even if just hand walking.


      • #4
        I would be willing to follow your plan, and if horse continues sound chalk it up to just one of those things they do sometimes. If he were to get any swelling/unsoundness back into work even in say a few weeks then I would stop and get an ultrasound. When it is extremely slight it can be hard to diagnose anything even with a good lameness vet and if your vet isn't great it can cost you a lot (not all vets can be great at everything!).


        • Original Poster

          Thanks all for your replies. I've thought about all the options here too. Feels better not to be alone! My gut says this isn't a big deal...just one of those things that horses do. I noticed the swelling exactly a week ago and after initial cold hosing, bute, doubled the MSM and handwalking for 5 days, I am now riding him bareback at walk only with splint boots to sweat the leg (he tears off standing wraps) and painting with DMSO...though he won't tolerate that stuff much longer.

          I just called a vet that has portable ultrasound and digital x-ray. He can come Monday. Though I can haul to a clinic, I figured save his leg having to balance in the trailer as it's over an hour away. If my trainer hadn't said what AKB said, I would have gone the route of bringing him back carefully and if ANYTHING wasn't right - call vet. But this is my "Main Man" and I'd feel worse ending his career than ringing up the credit card. Jingles for me that vet says "keep doin' what yer doin' and he'll be fine"!

          Thanks for letting me think this through out loud
          Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


          • #6
            Sound like it could be a splint. My gelding has one in the same location you describe. He had it when I bought him, passed his lameness exam with flying colors, all it is now is a bump that you can see if you look real close.

            ETA: You said the horse was not lame at all. THe three days of cold hosing and bute could've taken care of it if it was a splint. They can get them from roughhousing as youngsters (I think this is how my guy got his). other reasons too.

            Could you call your vet and discuss over the phone? I realize he/she cannot diagnose like this, but I have had some luck talking with my vet over the phone and have been able to come up with a plan (like, "do x, y, z, and if its still there in 4 days, call me and we'll reevaluate...")
            "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


            • #7
              Generally if I find a problem I call my vet to discuss it and formulate a plan. With something like you described, I would probably cold hose it, wrap it and rest for a few days, the re-evaluate.

              I like to talk to a vet because sometimes they'll ask me questions that I haven't thought of. Also, if I know one of the vets will be in my area, and it's easier for them to stop by, I might decide to schedule an appointment on a particular day.
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


              • #8
                It is tough.

                I've seen a lot of bad stuff, so I'm pretty good at telling the difference between "wait it out" and "vet ASAP" (like when my horse did his tendon last year. I knew it was vet worthy as soon as I saw him).

                But, from what your describing, I would probably be tempted to wait and watch carefully, especially if the horse jogs and lunges sound and has no reaction on palpation. I would actually be more likely to ride with what you are describing, from the beginning, to help pump the fill out (light work, even just walk hacks).

                I would ice or cold hose...but I'm less likely to bute because I want to see if the horse is uncomfortable. I don't want the NSAIDs to hide a lameness, so with a wait and see situation, I want nothing to mask anything.


                • Original Poster

                  Hi all, I did start riding my guy at the walk only so that he could stride out better than my hand walks. I also stopped the Bute so I wouldn't be masking anything. The swelling is 90% gone. No one would know it's there but me cuz I'm so particular

                  Vet with portable x-ray and ultrasound is coming out Monday afternoon, so I'll know if I can proceed with gentle return to work....or not. From everything I've read, this is either a mild strain that will soon be healed or at worst an inflamed tendon sheath vs. an actual torn tendon. Most info says a tendon tear will show lameness and pain to palpation along with inflammation. My guy has only the inflammation and again, it's almost gone. Will have an U/S just to give me peace of mind.

                  Thanks to all of your well-tendered advice!
                  Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Lusoluv View Post
                    If she doesn't see 100% improvement by day 3, she takes her horse to the equine clinic. She's concerned about strains turning into tears, etc. and is very aggressive about diagnosing and treating.
                    I'm with your trainer. I give it three days. For my show horse, that is. For my two retirees, as long as it's non-critical, I let nature figure it out.

                    Originally posted by Lusoluv View Post
                    From everything I've read, this is either a mild strain that will soon be healed or at worst an inflamed tendon sheath vs. an actual torn tendon. Most info says a tendon tear will show lameness and pain to palpation along with inflammation. My guy has only the inflammation and again, it's almost gone. Will have an U/S just to give me peace of mind.
                    You never know. My old show horse, now retiree, tried to tell me for months that he had mildly torn/strained a ligament. The extremely mild tendon sheath swelling, no lameness, and no reaction had me fooled, thinking it was the beginnings of old-man-itis (he was 14 at the time). He then severely tore it, and turned into a pasture ornament at the peak of his career.

                    Hence my "3 day" rule now.

                    Glad to see you're getting a vet out!


                    • #11
                      First day NQR, ice, bute, wrap if in, turn out. Second day, ride again, if not better, get off, ice, bute, wrap if in, turn out. Third day, ride again, if not better, get off, ice, bute, wrap if in, turn out, call vet.

                      If it gets worse on day 2, I keep him in and call the vet. If it looks weird, I call the vet. If it is trending in a generally getting better direction I take him off of bute and if it isn't 100% off bute I call the vet.

                      And then the vet says the equivalent of "Your horse is an idiot," "You're an idiot," or "Your horse is trying to redo his suspensory and you should probably not let him do that." I like the second one best.
                      "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                      Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                      Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


                      • #12
                        I think you have a good plan. We've had similar swellings 3 times. The first time, the vet didn't have an ultrasound so we didn't figure it out and the older pony developed chronic lameness issues that never got completely sorted out. The second one turned out to be a small deep digital flexor tendon bow. He stayed sound, but was on paddock rest for a couple of months (not easy to keep in the stall), followed by a tendon rehab protocol for a few months. The tendon healed completely and has never given him any trouble. Our third experience turned out to just be swelling in the tendon sheath. He was on paddock rest and walking under saddle for a week, then went back into full work pretty quickly.

                        Let us know what you find. After our experience with the pony, I decided it is better to know what you have.


                        • Original Poster

                          Hi AKB, I'm hoping my situation is your #3. I've been walking him undersaddle and have added putting him on the bit vs. just wandering around. Figured it'd be no more stress on the leg, but will give us something to think about while we're walking. The leg looks normal after our walks and very mild filling by next morning. Can't wait 'til Monday when vet tells me what's what. I'll report findings when I know. Thanks again!
                          Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


                          • #14
                            Sadly I always call my vet by the 2nd day. I am very crazy about the boys and their health.

                            Having said that my vets are AWESOME!!!! I can call/text and they decide if it is something they need to see or if I can treat on my own.

                            I have to say they do save me a lot of money while keeping the boys out of too much trouble.


                            • Original Poster

                              Update first post
                              Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


                              • #16
                                Good to hear.

                                My girl did something similar. Puffiness around the ankle. She hasn't been off at all that I can tell. It is probably just windpuffs but I'm taking her in on Wednesday for a better safe than sorry visit. Yesterday she had a bit of heat in it and the vein that runs down the inside of the leg was very prominent which tells me there is some inflammation going on. We will be walking only until our vet visit. I also changed her eating situation a bit as I don't know how much that is contributing. She was eating out of one of those turned inside out tractor tires. The tire is chained to the fence to keep it where she gets fed. To get the last morsels of hay, she slings her right front in the tire then pulls as hard as she can to get it to move a bit. I took that away yesterday.
                                That can't be terribly good on her fetlock. Goofy horses.

                                I am glad your guy is good to go.