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


Drainage from Site on Upper Limb or Leg


Drainage from the upper limb may result from an abscess, puncture wound, or foreign body, among other things. The bacterial infection Pigeon Breast can create an abscesses deep in the muscle that ultimately breaks open and drains.

Drainage accompanied by lameness is usually indicative of a more serious problem. Severe lameness along with upper limb drainage may indicate a fracture, or joint or tendon sheath involvement, and so should increase the urgency for seeking veterinary involvement.

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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the affected limb. Note the location of the draining site, and the amount, odor and color of the drainage. Share your findings and concerns with your vet. You can gently cleanse the site, take note of the location, and take a photograph of the draining tract.

If you choose to treat this yourself, flush the wound well with very dilute disinfectants only. Avoid using harsh disinfectants. Keep in mind that there is a chance that the underlying condition is contagious. Wash your hands with antiseptic soap before touching other horses. Do not share tack or equipment with other horses, until your vet has seen the horse and determined the nature of the problem.

your vet's role

Your vet uses history, physical examination and examination of the site of drainage to determine a cause. This may involve probing the draining tract with an instrument to determine its depth and direction. Drainage coming from deep in the musculature may require special diagnostics to identify the cause.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Did you notice swelling in this area prior to the drainage?
  • How is the horse's attitude and appetite?
  • Does the horse show any signs of lameness or resistance to move?
  • How lame is the horse?
  • Is the lameness noticeable to you at the walk?
  • Has this horse or other been diagnosed with Pigeon Fever in the past?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

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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)

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP