Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Drainage from Site on Upper Limb or Leg

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

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

    Drainage from the upper limb may result from an abscess, puncture wound, or foreign body, among other things. The bacterial infection Pigeon Breast can create an abscesses deep in the muscle that ultimately breaks open and drains.

    Drainage accompanied by lameness is usually indicative of a more serious problem. Severe lameness along with upper limb drainage may indicate a fracture, or joint or tendon sheath involvement, and so should increase the urgency for seeking veterinary involvement.


    Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the affected limb. Note the location of the draining site, and the amount, odor and color of the drainage. Share your findings and concerns with your vet. You can gently cleanse the site, take note of the location, and take a photograph of the draining tract.

    If you choose to treat this yourself, flush the wound well with very dilute disinfectants only. Avoid using harsh disinfectants. Keep in mind that there is a chance that the underlying condition is contagious. Wash your hands with antiseptic soap before touching other horses. Do not share tack or equipment with other horses, until your vet has seen the horse and determined the nature of the problem.


    Your vet uses history, physical examination and examination of the site of drainage to determine a cause. This may involve probing the draining tract with an instrument to determine its depth and direction. Drainage coming from deep in the musculature may require special diagnostics to identify the cause.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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