Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Sores, Crusts, Growths or Scabs on Lower Limb(s)

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

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

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

  • If there is swelling and pain associated with this problem.
  • If the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.

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

  • If the problem seems very mild and limited to a small area.
  • If you do not notice any lameness or stiffness.

Crusts, scabs and growths located on the pastern, fetlock or coronet are quite common. They are less common above the level of the fetlock. Traumatic wounds are common low on the limb, and wounds do heal poorly here. Proud flesh is common, and a variety of growths, scabs and scars can result from poor wound healing in this region.

Crusts, scabs, and growths also be part of the pastern dermatitis syndrome (aka mud fever, greasy heel or scratches). Pastern dermatitis most commonly (but not always) occurs on white-haired pasterns with pink skin.

Other conditions that can similarly cause growths, or excessive crusting and scabbing on the lower limbs includes chronic lymphedema (common in draft horses), proud flesh, equine sarcoid, and some more rare conditions. See the list of accompanying differential diagnoses.

Although crusts in this area may appear to result from trauma, crusts or scabs in this area may not heal in the way you would expect traumatic injuries to heal. This can indicate that one of these other disease processes is involved.

The important thing is to diagnose and treat sores and scabs here. Left untreated or unresolved, skin can become more and more cracked and irritated, opening up an avenue for major infection of the limb. Chronic scarring and thickening of the pastern can also result, which can limit movement and cause chronic lameness. For this reason, it is important to take this observation seriously and try to reach a diagnosis and treat the area.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the area. Consider whether the affected limb is white haired/ pink skinned. Check the other limbs for similar problems. Take a photo and share with your vet. You can try to treat crusting skin conditions in this area yourself. However, if you are unsuccessful, if it is a chronic (ongoing) problem, if it worsens, or if it is accompanied by lameness, you should always call your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet can usually tell healing traumatic injuries from infections and other conditions in this area. This requires that they examine the area. In most cases, other diagnostic tests will not be needed and we rely on response to treatment. In rare cases, biopsy may be needed to differentiate among similar looking conditions.

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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