Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Drainage from Heel or Pastern Area

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 lameness is noticeable at the walk.
  • 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

  • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

There are a variety of critical structures in the lower pastern and heel areas of the limb. Drainage from this region should cause you concern because a draining wound here may involve these structures.

Generally, the severity of the underlying cause relates to the degree of lameness. Wounds and drainage involving the joint or tendon sheath are accompanied by severe lameness. Wounds and drainage from the heel area accompanied by mild lameness may be quittor, an infection of the collateral cartilage in the hoof. Hoof abscesses that drain from along the coronet band are usually accompanied by lameness that resolves with drainage.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general heath using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the area of concern. If you can, clip the area to find the wound. Pay particular attention to the amount, color and location of the wound and discharge, as well as the degree of lameness. Take a photo and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet assesses the wound through which the drainage is occurring. This may involve visual assessment, probing with a metal probe, imaging like ultrasound and x-ray, and other special tests. In some cases, sampling of the draining fluid sheds light on the nature of the problem. Once a diagnosis is made, the best treatment can be selected.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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