Leg injuries in horses should always be taken with caution. Often leg pain in horses can have life-threatening secondary consequences such as colic or founder. That’s why when in doubt my advice is always to call the vet and find out what is going on.
Recently I had this experience with my own horse. I got home from school one evening to find that my horse was limping. There was no noticeable swelling but he was favoring his front leg. He would put weight on it, but did not want to lift it up the whole way to walk, dragging his toe on the ground. This is indicative of an upper leg injury which led me to breathe a sigh of relief that is was not founder. I could not find an area with heat or pain so I decided to wait and see what happens, thinking maybe he just pulled a muscle.
The next day when I went to see him he had noticeable swelling on his upper leg, but it went down to his knee. The skin was tight and hot. But what I found that was even weirder was that what appeared to be his pectoral muscle or at least the inguinal area next to it was extremely swollen, but it was jiggly. What in the world happened here? I thought. He goes out with other horses, but there are barely ever any herd disputes so I ruled out any possibility of him getting kicked.
My first instinct was to go to Dr. Google, which I know I would only find bad things. Dr. Google found that Pigeon Fever could cause a similar swelling pattern caused by abscesses. I was pretty sure it wasn’t that though. It didn’t feel like abscesses on my horse, nor did it really hurt when I poked and prodded the swollen areas. Also, Pigeon Fever is not in my area and is found mostly in southwestern regions of the United States and Canada.
I called the vet. I am not a vet, I am only a student, and I have a lot to learn, so when in doubt, call the vet! My veterinarian was immediately not concerned. He said that things like this happen all the time, that my horse could have gotten up from lying down funny and clipped his hoof in that area, causing the blood vessels and veins to pop, causing a sort of hematoma. My horse did have a small temperature though, as a possible reaction to fighting off the swelling. But he has no other clinical signs indicative of any other issue. The vet prescribed hydrotherapy with a good pressure, and some antibiotics, as a precaution in case there was an infection caused by some sort of perforation or cut that we couldn’t see or feel, but could have been caused simply by a bug bite.
Three days later he was back to normal. Even though it was not as serious as I had worried. It was good to have a veterinarian’s second opinion to give me some piece of mind so that I could focus my energy on studying and not on what type of condition was plaguing my horse. I am not shy to admit that I didn’t know what was going on, and in the end, I learned something new.