Your horse is wearing a cast placed by your vet and has now been turned over to your care until the cast is removed. Casts are very helpful but complications from wearing a cast can be very serious and must be detected and managed immediately.
Pressure points leading to severe cast sores can develop quickly. It is very important to be on the lookout for these and other problems. Your vet should provide you with instructions on how to monitor the cast and what types of complications to look for.
Assess your horse's general health, attitude and appetite. Horses in a cast should maintain a normal appetite, attitude and temperature. Now watch your horse for lameness or evidence of discomfort as they move around the stall. Watch for the following signs:
1. Lameness (limping) upon weight bearing.
2. “Pointing” the foot (placing it out in front) or positioning it in abnormal ways to escape discomfort or pain.
3. Not wanting to move freely in the cast. Hesitating as if it will hurt to put it down.
4. Look for swelling at the top of the cast (and/or below in sleeve cast). Use your fingers to press the skin around the top (and/or bottom) of the cast. Feel for edema (swelling) and see if you get a pain response when you squeeze or press with your fingertips.
5. Feel the entire cast for heat. Use the backs of your fingers to feel for areas that are more warm within the cast. Especially feel around the top of the cast for a difference in warmth from the rest of the cast. It is best to feel the cast for heat in the cool morning.
6. Sniff the top of the cast. Note any unusual odors or smells coming from the cast. A strange smell from the cast can indicate a sore developing.
7. In the case of a cast enclosing the foot: Pick up the foot daily and observe the sole of the cast. See that it is not wearing through. A tough walking surface may have been applied to the sole of the cast, but occasionally there can be problems with this and you will see where it is wearing. If it is, apply several layers of duct tape to the sole and call your vet.
In most cases, your vet will have applied an elastic, adherent bandaging tape to the top of the cast and to the skin. This is intended to keep debris from getting into the cast. Reinforce or replace this as necessary to provide a seal. Apply the tape with only gentle tension on the skin.
Tips for safety & Success
It is critical that the horse in a cast is kept confined (12 x 12 stall) and quiet. If the horse is pacing in the stall or moving too much, it will cause problems. Keep the stall very clean and dry. Bed it with a few inches of dry, clean shavings.
Adjust your horse's diet as advised by your vet. Feeding more grain than is necessary can cause the horse to be restless. Unless your vet advises otherwise, monitor the cast and the horse at least every morning and evening.
Helpful terms & topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health