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Joint and Limb Swelling

swollen kneeSoft, puffy joints or “filling” around the joints or lower limbs are very common in horses. The soft tissue swelling or “oedema” is usually due to a hard workout or a knock to the leg. It can also be caused by excessive grain feeding together with lack of exercise, such as in horses stabled overnight.

First aid for leg swelling should aim to control the inflammation in the affected area and to reduce the risk of further injury. 

Cold therapy is the first line of treatment for acute leg inflammation. Cold therapy will help constrict damaged blood vessels which will reduce ongoing internal bleeding and fluid accumulation in the injured tissue and provides some pain relief by numbing nerve endings. Cold therapy should be commenced as soon as possible after an injury and continued for the first 48 hours of treatment. Cold therapy can be applied with an ice pack covered with an adhesive bandage. The ice pack should be left on for 10-15 minutes at a time and repeated every few hours if possible for the first 48 hours after an injury. Alternatively cold hosing for 10-15 minutes at a time will also soothe the inflamed tissues; however it is not as effective as icing. The area should be bandaged overnight to provide counter pressure against further tissue swelling or internal bleeding.

You can apply a relieving gel such as RAPIGEL to minor leg swellings twice daily for the first few days after an injury to soothe the legs and help reduce the tissue swelling.

If limb swellings are hot and painful or the horse is very lame consult your vet for advice as this may indicate an underlying infection or serious internal damage to a joint or soft tissue.

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