Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Drainage from Chest

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

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

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

  • If there is swelling and pain associated with this problem.
  • 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 Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the horse's appetite and attitude are normal and you see nothing else wrong.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Discharge from the chest can result from draining abscesses or wounds. Pus drainage from the chest or around the point of the shoulder is a classic sign of Pigeon Fever (Corynebacterium infection), which is contagious.

Consider the contagious potential of mysterious drainage coming from near the chest. In geographic areas in which Pigeon Fever exists, that should be high on the differential diagnosis list and should prompt you to use care to prevent spread of pus around the premises or direct transmission to other horses.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to their rectal temperature, heart and respiratory rates, and general attitude and appetite. Assess movement/lameness at the walk. Is the horse stiff or uncomfortable? Assess the area (wearing gloves) for heat, swelling pain and appearance. Take a photo. Until your vet advises you, keep the horse away from your other horses and in a location that can be cleaned and disinfected when drainage ceases.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet usually recognizes traumatic injury versus primary bacterial infection (Pigeon Fever). If there is a doubt about the nature of the discharge, they may choose to do further diagnostics. The good news is that this area usually drains well and heals rapidly.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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