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Can bruised heels make a horse 5/5 lame? UPDATE, ABSCESS!

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  • Can bruised heels make a horse 5/5 lame? UPDATE, ABSCESS!

    I have a 5 year old OTTB who is a few months off the track and doing his layup at my farm.

    Yesterday he came up suddenly 5/5 lame on a hind leg and I called the vet out immediately. My farrier was also there. Of course everyone is thinking abscess or worse. Nothing sinister came up on exam. Between the two of them, they strongly suspected some severe bruising in the heel area versus an abscess. The horse is a typical TB with low heels and has been barefoot behind and out on pasture, no work. It's wet here in CA right now, so feet are soft.

    Can heel bruising cause such severe lameness?
    Last edited by Watermark Farm; Feb. 1, 2013, 05:42 PM.

  • #2
    X-rays were negative? Did he block to the foot?


    • #3
      Never say never, but I would have to vote no. Laminitis would seem more likely.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home


      • #4
        Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
        Never say never, but I would have to vote no. Laminitis would seem more likely.
        In one leg? On one hind leg? That's unusual presentation. But, I agree that it is unlikely a heel bruise. I have seen them make them 4/5 lame, but they will limp on the leg. Never seen a bruise make one completely non-weight bearing (while working at a vet hospital), but that doesn't mean it never happens of course.


        • #5
          My mistake, I thought it said all four legs which is why I was saying no way. I guess that is a little more possible but still seems extreme.
          McDowell Racing Stables

          Home Away From Home


          • #6
            My mare bruised her heel one summer and would not stand up, I thought she had broken a leg and I was freaking out. I got the vet out and he poked her around and got her up and all it was was a bruised heel. Honestly though she was acting as though we'd have to put her down my.god. She is a big baby when it comes to pain though but in my experience a bruised heel certainly can make them that lame. She did recover fairly quickly though.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Watermark Farm View Post
              I have a 5 year old OTTB who is a few months off the track and doing his layup at my farm.

              Yesterday he came up suddenly 5/5 lame on a hind leg and I called the vet out immediately. My farrier was also there. Of course everyone is thinking abscess or worse. Nothing sinister came up on exam.
              What diagnostics were done?
              Between the two of them, they strongly suspected some severe bruising in the heel area versus an abscess.
              Could be either or both. And, some bruises do turn septic.
              Can heel bruising cause such severe lameness?
              Anything is possible.....

              That said, is he totally non-weight bearing or if weight bearing to any degree, does he keep his heels off the ground?

              As a precaution, I suggest you put a support bandage/wrap on his other hind leg from below the hock to the top of the coronary band. If this lasts more than just a few days, you should probably get some support on the bottom of the contra-lateral hind too.


              • #8
                One of my horses bruised his heel right in the heel buttress and he was so lame I thought abcess or fracture. It also took MONTHS to heal, and for a while he refused to canter at all, and then just on that lead. So my answer is, sadly, yes. But better than a fracture!
                "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                • #9
                  My coming 5 y.o. Han mare is on stall rest with a bruised coffin bone on outside of RH. Just had bone scan, MRI, rads, ultrasound, the works. Sure enuf, it's a bone bruise. Acts like she's dying! A previcox and hand walking on soft ground for a few months then re examine. Oh ya, and $1000 worth of Tildrin thrown in for laughs. Over 7K$ to diagnose this. Glad it is not serious, but gee wizzz. Maxed out the insurance.


                  • #10
                    The thing about smart people, is they look like crazy people, to dumb people.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks for the input. Today he's improved and is now bearing weight on the leg, I'd say he's 4/5 lame. Walks on toe mostly, although will stand with leg fully loaded when resting.

                      Since there was no swelling, trauma, etc to the leg, we decided to hold off on blocking him or doing rads and see how he did over 24-48 hours. But I have to admit I'm nervous this is more than a bruise --- last hind end lameness turned out to be a pelvic fracture missed by 3 vets!

                      Thanks for all the info. I am going to get a second opinion tomorrow from a vet a have more confidence in.


                      • #12
                        You at least need to block to see if it is in the hoof. It usually is. And not everything is an abscess, unfortunately. After three weeks I know it was time to go to plan "B".
                        Of course resting her for a few months would have taken care of the problem (I hope), but once the ins co gets wind of it ya have to move along and figure it out.
                        I was relieved it wasn't a fracture or soft tissue, but believe me, this bruise thing is a slow healing process. Thank God it's freezing out so I don't feel like I am missing much. I hope things are rolling by April.


                        • #13
                          Any update from the second vet?

                          Although without further diagnostics? I wouldn't wait too long with the block and rads. If it is bruising, it's probably more then a simple surface bruise and you could very well have a suspensory, fracture or various problems higher up manifesting as a sore foot-thats why the blocks are so important. And no vet can see what is going on inside unless they know where to look and actually do look.

                          Sometimes waiting a few days is good. Sometimes not so much and this kind of sudden and severe lamness in one hind foot should not be ignored or put on the "wish/ maybe it will go away" list.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                          • #14
                            We blocked and xrayed, for the reasons F8 states. Fracture lame is nothing to be casual about.
                            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                            • Original Poster

                              The horse has improved quickly. Sound at walk and lame at trot, but not horribly so. Steady improvement each day. No heat, no pulse, no swelling.

                              Second vet could not see him yesterday, but had some helpful input to me to consider. Tomorrow we'll block, do rads, and try to pinpoint a location.


                              • #16
                                Yes ~ Happened to one of mine ~ took time but fine now ~ JINGLES & AO ~

                                Yes !~ happened to one of mine
                                took much time ~ now fine ~

                                JINGLES & AO ~
                                Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                                • #17
                                  Having had a horse come in from pasture 3 legged lame, actually waving the offending foot., and having it stroll out of the stall 12 hours later. I can attest to the headaches of dealing with this.
                                  Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                  Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                                  • #18
                                    I am glad to hear success stories re: bone bruises. My horse is in a holding pattern.
                                    She's quite happy with herself but it is so cold I have not stripped her and watched her go for about a week. I do notice that sometimes she is reluctant to pick up her opposing hind foot (the "good" one) to be cleaned. She is still on 1 previcox a day and isox. She has bars on behind to help her. I was curious about the poster who said that her horse was reluctant to canter for awhile, then cantered on one lead, etc. I have a feeling that is what I can look forward to. I first noticed a problem when my horse was reluctant to canter and stood up and fell down with me on her. I am in no rush to go through that again. So I guess, after reading everything that's been said on this, as well as by following the advice of my vet(s), I need to be very patient. It is easy now because it is frozen outside. But in a few months I will start to lose it if things don't heal and I can't canter without getting killed. Patience....


                                    • #19
                                      It was me and yes, it was a slooowww process. Are you sure the shoe is not interferring at all? Mine had to be barefoot. Just wanted to mention that.
                                      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                                      • #20
                                        I think the bar shoes we put on behind helped a bit the day she went lame, after we took rads. How was the shoe interfering ? I would love to talk with you about it if you don't mind sending me a PM?