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


Drainage from Site on Lower Limb or Leg


Drainage or pus from a site located on the lower limb is of great concern because of the number of vital structures (joints, tendons, and tendon sheaths) located right under the skin. If these structures are involved in a wound or injury, it could be a life-threatening problem.

Tiny wounds involving critical structures can appear minor but can result in severe, life-threatening lameness if infected. Once that happens, treatment is often very difficult and expensive.

The presence or absence of lameness is helpful in determining the severity of conditions affecting the lower limb. If the horse is not lame, in many cases, it may mean that important anatomic structures are not involved.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If severe lameness accompanies this sign.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you do not notice any lameness or stiffness.

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the presence or absence of fever, lameness and swelling of the area. Check other limbs to see if similar drainage exists elsewhere.

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.

your vet's role

Your vet must determine whether the problem is potentially serious. The equine lower limb is a sensitive and important region and there are critical structures right under the skin. Failure to promptly diagnose and treat a problem in this location appropriately could result in severe and permanent lameness.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Where does the drainage seem to be coming from?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • Do you see an injury, foreign body, or swelling?
  • Is there any swelling in the area?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Tell me more about the color, smell, and quantity of the drainage.
  • Is the drainage pus or blood?
  • Is the drainage near a joint, tendon or tendon sheath?

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

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
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP