What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Drainage from Poll or Neck behind Skull


The most common cause of drainage in this region is from a traumatic wound near the poll. This usually occurs as a trailering accident- the horse hits the back of the head on the trailer as it backs out. The wound may be difficult to see as it is often under the mane at the poll.

Unless resulting from an infected wound caused by outside trauma, drainage from the poll (where the skull meets the neck, just under the mane), may be associated with a rare (and reportable) infectious disease caused by a Brucellosis bacterial infection, known as "Poll Evil."

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If there is swelling and pain associated with this problem.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) indicate fever (Temp>101F/38.3C), or heart rate greater than 48 BPM that persists an hour after recovery from exercise.
    • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.
    • If there is a small wound with small amount of discharge.

your role


What To Do

Perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) , paying particular attention to the rectal temperature and general attitude. Try to visualize the area as well as you can. If possible take photos and share with your vet.

If you notice mysterious drainage from this area (that you cannot attribute to any outside trauma), keep in mind the potential for the rare disease Brucellosis. Contact your vet immediately and do not attempt to treat it yourself.

What Not To Do

Do not treat a mysterious wound in this area yourself, for the fear of spread of Brucellosis.

your vet's role

If there is a draining tract without obvious traumatic wound, your vet may choose to culture the drainage. In some cases, wound infections here involve the bone at the base of the skull. This would be a reason for persistent drainage. Otherwise, wound treatment is as it is elsewhere.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the horse's appetite and attitude seem normal?
  • Does it appear that this was caused by trauma?
  • Does pressure on the area seem to cause the horse pain or discomfort?
  • Can you see a wound?
  • Do you notice odor to the drainage or wound?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP