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


Drainage from Heel or Pastern Area


There are a variety of critical structures in the lower pastern and heel areas of the limb. Drainage from this region should cause you concern because a draining wound here may involve these structures.

Generally, the severity of the underlying cause relates to the degree of lameness. Wounds and drainage involving the joint or tendon sheath are accompanied by severe lameness. Wounds and drainage from the heel area accompanied by mild lameness may be quittor, an infection of the collateral cartilage in the hoof. Hoof abscesses that drain from along the coronet band are usually accompanied by lameness that resolves with drainage.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If lameness is noticeable at the walk.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general heath using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the area of concern. If you can, clip the area to find the wound. Pay particular attention to the amount, color and location of the wound and discharge, as well as the degree of lameness. Take a photo and share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet assesses the wound through which the drainage is occurring. This may involve visual assessment, probing with a metal probe, imaging like ultrasound and x-ray, and other special tests. In some cases, sampling of the draining fluid sheds light on the nature of the problem. Once a diagnosis is made, the best treatment can be selected.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How lame is the horse?
  • Describe the wound to me in detail?
  • When did you first notice the wound?
  • Can you send me a photo?
  • Does the wound appear fresh to you?
  • Are there wounds elsewhere?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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
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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