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


Wound to Limb near Joint or Tendon Sheath

Fetlock Joint Wound & Infected Fetlock Joint Treated with Joint Flushing


Wounds that involve joints or tendon sheaths cause infection within these closed spaces. Once established, infection in a joint or tendon sheath can be very difficult and expensive to resolve. Even if infection is eliminated, the damage that results from infection and severe inflammation can mean permanent, disabling lameness.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

If you are not sure whether a wound is near enough to a joint or tendon sheath to cause worry, immediately contact your vet. Even if the wound is not located directly over these internal structures, it may still penetrate into the joint below the surface of the skin.

The absence or presence of lameness is a helpful indicator of wound severity and the involvement of joint or tendon sheath. Keep in mind, though, that lameness may not be immediately obvious. Often it can take several hours or even days before the horse becomes obviously lame.

Assess the wound, paying special attention to the amount of drainage and degree of swelling. Take a photo and share it with your vet. Assess lameness at the walk, and take the horse's rectal temperature. If it will be long before your vet will arrive and your horse is not lame, ask them whether you should gently clean and bandage the wound.

What Not To Do

Do not apply any antibiotic products to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet. Do not assume that a limb wound is a "minor" or "simple" wound just because it doesn't look dramatic. Its location is key to assessing its severity. Do not treat wounds that are causing lameness without examination by a vet. Do not use harsh chemicals or antiseptics when cleaning the wound.

your vet's role

Your vet uses a variety of diagnostics to determine whether or not a specific joint or tendon sheath is involved. The answer to that question will determine the appropriate treatment options and the prognosis with each.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • When do you think the wound occurred?
  • What is the horse's rectal temperature?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • Where, exactly, is it located? Can you provide a photo?
  • Is there any drainage?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • Tell me more about the color, smell, and quantity of the drainage.
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP