Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Soft, Jiggly Swelling Between Front Legs

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • If the area seems painful to the touch.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If the swelling is mild or moderate, and not increasing rapidly.
  • If the area does not seem to be painful.

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • You have any concerns about the late-term pregnant mare.

A soft swelling between the front legs is usually edema (fluid within tissue planes) that has settled here from an injury elsewhere. In the chest area, the skin and underlying connective tissues are very loose, and so when edema accumulates here it is “jiggly” or pendulous. this is in contrast to firm, doughy “pitting edema” on the ventral midline (lower belly), where the skin is very tight.

Normal late-term, heavily pregnant mares with ventral edema often show swelling here that has spread forward between the forelegs. This typically disappears within a day or two after foaling. In a very fat horse, swelling here can be fat.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the horse’s overall health with the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature and movement at the walk. Look for swelling or hair loss over the body, or on the belly and chest that might indicate an injury. In male horses, feel the sheath. Assess the limbs for swelling. Assess lameness at the walk to determine that the horse is moving normally.

Expect this swelling in late-term pregnant mares, as an extension of ventral edema of pregnancy. Look for swelling or injury further back on your horse’s belly, an inflamed sheath, evidence of trauma to the chest, or even injury to a front limb that has ascended to the armpit.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will perform a physical exam to determine the nature of the swelling. In some cases, they may recommend blood work to detect an infection or assess organ function. Once the inciting cause is treated, this edema usually goes away quickly.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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