Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Wound or Laceration involving Lower Limb Flexor Tendon

The flexor tendons in the rear of the lower limb are some of the most vital weight-bearing structures in the equine limb. They function as ropes over pulleys, and provide a sling that supports the full weight of the horse and provides shock absorption through stretch.

It follows that wounds (lacerations) that involve the flexor tendons are some of the most devastating injuries that horses sustain. These wounds usually occur below the carpus or hock and on the back (rear or caudal) part of the limb. The flexor tendons are very vulnerable to injury because there is relatively little tissue covering them.

Damage to these structures results in severe lameness (often non weight-bearing) and can cause the fetlock to drop or collapse or cause the toe of the hoof to raise off the ground.

Diagnosis involves veterinary exploration of the wound and assessment of the vital structures. Usually veterinarians do this with gloved digital palpation of the structures involved in the wound. Ultrasound through the wound can be a helpful tool to assess the integrity of tendons and ligaments.

In most cases, repair and casting to protect the repair is required to get the best result.

Prognosis & Relevant Factors

Prognosis depends on the specific structures cut or damaged, the severity, the length of time since injury, and the effectiveness of treatment.

Smaller, younger horses tend to have better outcomes.

Prognosis is guarded to poor for return to pre-injury performance levels. With aggressive treatment, horses may return to athletic function, but usually at a lower level.

QUESTIONS TO ASK MY VET

  • Can this wound be surgically repaired?
  • What is the prognosis with surgical repair versus without?
  • What is the cost range for treatment?
  • How long before the horse can return to work?
  • What will the rehabilitation program be like?
  • Is it too late to repair this wound surgically?
  • PREVENTION

    All efforts should be made to make a horse's environment as safe as possible. If you know what caused the injury, take reasonable efforts to remove it from your horse's environment to prevent problems in the future.

    If your horse sustains an injury to the lower limb, have it evaluated IMMEDIATELY by your veterinarian. Prompt treatment of tendon lacerations can be career and life saving. Delay can cost the life of the animal.

    Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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