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Strained Or “Bowed” Tendons

bowed tendonInjury to the flexor tendons that run down the back of the cannon area between the knee and the fetlock is common in racing and competition horses. Strained tendons usually result from overstretching and tearing of the tendon fibres when galloping, jumping, turning or stopping quickly. It can also occur if a horse loses its footing and overstretches the tendon fibres.

Following a tendon injury the horse will usually show signs of lameness during or soon after work. The tendon will appear swollen, warm and tender to the touch. Immediate first aid is essential if you suspect a tendon injury to limit the extent of internal bleeding and inflammation, which can worsen if the injury is allowed to continue unchecked. During the first 48 hours cold therapy and pressure bandaging are recommended to control the inflammation, together with strict stable rest. Apply an ice pack under an adhesive bandage for 20 minutes three or four times a day for the first 48 hours. In between ice treatments, injured tendons should be bandaged to limit tissue swelling – bandage with a firm, uniform pressure but do not apply bandages too tightly as this can lead to further tendon damage.

Seek veterinary advice as soon as possible for any tendon injury. Your vet will probably “scan” the tendon to assess the degree of internal damage and the prognosis for recovery and future performance. 

During this early stage of the injury do not apply warming liniments or rubs as these tend to increase blood flow to the area, which may encourage further bleeding and swelling. However, topical products may be applied to help reduce fluid accumulation, inflammation and pain. Take care to avoid blistering of the skin by not applying more than one topical treatment at a time.

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