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


Drainage from Anywhere on Body


Drainage or discharge is different from true bleeding in that the fluid coming from the site is not blood. It might be pus, clear discharge, reddish or yellowish fluid. It may be thick or thin, smooth or lumpy. Normal drainage often results soon after a horse sustains an uncomplicated wound. Drainage also results from an embedded foreign body, a ruptured abscess, or an infected puncture wound. A less likely reason for drainage is a skin condition.

Pigeon Breast and Strangles are conditions typified by abscess formation and drainage. Strangles abscesses are usually found around the throat and under the jaw but abscesses can form anywhere on the body. Pigeon Breast usually causes swelling and drainage around the chest and under-belly but again can be anywhere. Multiple areas of drainage drying on the skin can be seen in certain skin conditions.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the horse has no appetite and is obviously depressed.
    • If you notice significant swelling or pain at the site.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you have other questions or concerns about the horse.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) paying particular attention to their temperature, attitude and appetite. Describe the color, consistency and smell of drainage. Take a photograph Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

Treat mysterious drainage or discharge as potentially contagious to other horses until you know otherwise, and take action to isolate the horse and contain the discharge. Wear gloves!

What Not To Do

Do not assume that the injury causing the drainage is minor because the injury is small or otherwise not very dramatic.

Injuries near or involving vital structures can be very serious.

your vet's role


Your vet will assess the general health of the horse and try to identify the source of the draining tract(s) through examination, probing of wound, ultrasound, radiography, and culture for bacterial and fungal organisms.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Where does the drainage seem to be coming from?
  • Do you see an injury, foreign body, or swelling?
  • Tell me more about the color, smell, and quantity of the drainage.
  • Is the drainage pus or blood?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Is the horse a foal under 6 months of age?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP