Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Soft Swelling of Skin, Crackles when Pressed

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

    Soft puffy air-filled swellings under the skin often occur as a complication to upper limb, armpit (axilla), or groin (inguinal area), wounds. A one-way valve develops, and air is pumped under the skin into the wound bed as the horse walks. In extreme cases, the entire body can inflate like a balloon. The air does not cause a problem. When the valve effect stops, the air is gradually absorbed.

    However, bacterial infection of tissues with gas production can also result in a soft swelling with crackly skin. Wounds to the trachea, windpipe, or a penetrating wound into the lung may also appear similar. These types of wounds can be life-threatening and require immediate veterinary assessment.

    WHAT TO DO

    Confine your horse to a box stall to keep walking to a minimum. Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

    WHAT YOUR VET DOES

    If this observation is associated with a new wound, talk to your vet about whether they need to examine and treat it.

    If this observation is associated with a healing wound that your vet has already evaluated, talk to your vet about developing a plan to reduce movement or air flow by repairing it surgically or packing it. They may need to examine it again to ensure it is healing properly.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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