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


Swelling on Chest


The chest is an area that often swells obviously when injured, due to the loose tissue there and its low anatomical position. It is a common site for a kick from another horse, causing a serum or blood filled swelling (seroma or hematoma). Swelling (edema) can also gather under the chest from injury or inflammation towards the rear on the girth or abdomen.

A swelling on a horse's chest is also a classic sign of Pigeon Breast, a bacterial infection that results in an abscess filled with pus. A swelling associated with Pigeon Breast is usually hot and hard and over a fairly large area, and tends to slowly increase in size over days (until they rupture or are drained).

Horses with Pigeon Breast also tend to run a mild fever. In contrast, a hematoma (accumulation of blood) feels like a more defined tight ball, and a seroma is usually thin-walled with a soft, fluidy (fluctuant) feel. Edema may feel like loose jiggly tissue between the front limbs.

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your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to temperature, general attitude and appetite, and lameness at the walk. Assess the swelling to determine how it feels. Is it hard, hot, painful, or does it feel more like a fluid filled balloon? Send a photo to your vet.

If you notice any drainage from the area, wear latex gloves and consider the drainage contagious. Wash your hands well after handling the horse and try to contain and dispose of any obvious drainage.

your vet's role


Your vet uses their general exam, exam of the area and possibly other diagnostics (like ultrasound and needle aspiration of the center of the swelling) to determine the nature of the swelling and the best treatment plan.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What geographic areas has the horse been to in the last 6 months?
  • Where, geographically, does the horse live?
  • Is the horse alone or kept with others in a group?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does the horse's appetite and attitude seem normal?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What is the horse's rectal temperature?
  • 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
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP