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Swelling along mare's stomach

Hello everyone :slight_smile:

Unfortunately I’m here to make my first post due to a concerning issue with my mare.

Firstly, a rundown of the horse in question - ‘Titinia’ is approx 14 years old, and my family has owned her since she was 18 months old. Never had any health issues. She has had two foals and is currently nursing the second (who is well past due for weaning :P). She is unbroken and has only ever been used as a paddock ornament. We currently only have three horses; her, her daughter and gelding son.
She is on grass in a 12 acre paddock and receives no supplemental feeding except a handful of hay as a treat each morning. All three horses are … fleshy :winkgrin: Not obese, but definitely a bit fat despite the dry weather as of late.

Two days ago, on the 10th, I noticed an unusual and large swelling along her belly towards the left of the midline. I’m unsure exactly how long it had been there as she doesn’t come up for the hay every morning, but it can’t have been more than a couple of days.

The swelling is firm and not noticeably hot. There is no visible injury but the swelling seems to be sore as she doesn’t like it to be touched. She is also strongly refusing to let her son nurse. The first day one side of her udder was swollen, and now both sides are.

She is acting fine and healthy in every other way - grazing and walking about normally, etc.

I took photos on the 10th and more just today. If you look closely at today’s you can notice that the swelling has spread further to the right side of her stomach, across the midline.

From what I have read, swelling like this can be commonly due to trauma to the area or pregnancy. It’s been really hot recently so the horses go swimming and rolling in the dam, so it’s possible she could have rolled onto a stick or sharp rock. I don’t think it was a kick as she is the boss mare and neither of the other two would ever kick her.
Pregnancy is hard to tell as she is already fat and lactating. The neighbours do have horses and at one point they had a horse with whom Titinia was particularly flirty, but I never got a good look to see if it was a stallion.

So, any ideas or other possible causes? Should I just wait and see if the swelling goes down or is there something I could do to help ease it?

Photos taken on the 10th

Photos from today (the 12th)

Her tail was cut as it got all tangled and knotty, that’s why it looks weirdly short…

And a photo of her daughter Nisbet for comparison (and it’s been raining today, sorry about the wet coats)
Titinia is currently feeding the gelding, not Nisbet, just to be clear. This is just so you can see what my other horses look like.

That is Edema, it is caused by the heart not working correctly and being unable to push all the fluids around the to the proper places. The fluid pools in the lowest location.

Your horse needs to see a vet.

This is an indication of a serious life threatening problem and you may need to think of an alternative source of milk for the foal very soon.


Someone on another forum also suggested mastitis, any idea how I can treat that since she’s obviously not keen on having her stomach or udder area touched?

The ‘foal’ doesn’t need milk anymore by the way, so that’s not a problem…

I would suggest separating the foal and start him eating on his own. And agree that your mare needs a vet ASAP. It isn’t something to be diagnosed on the interwebz. You might be lucky if it IS mastitis. You need a vet to make any diagnosis.

Is the gelding nursing off his dam or his ‘sister’? How old is he?

Vet. Now. Potentially lfe threatening. Needs antibiotics.


Is the gelding nursing off his dam or his ‘sister’? How old is he?[/QUOTE]

Sorry for the confusion. The gelding is nursing his mother, Titinia. He’s a yearling.

Does anyone have names for the life threatening conditions that can cause this kind of swelling/edema so that I may research them in the meantime? It’s the weekend, I can’t get a vet out.

No vet will come out on a weekend? What do you do if you have a bad colic, or serious injury? It really is urgent that your mare gets vet attention right away, especially if this has been present for a few days.

I think from the posts urging you to get a vet out, you would do so immediately. There are many knowledgeable people here, so please heed their posts and do take your horse’s need for a vet very seriously.

Agree 100% Edema. Some are very serious as in life threatening and require the vet now whereas others are not. The problem: which one is it? Please call your vet right away.

Jingles for Titinia.

The technical name is Ventral Edema, like I said, it’s caused by the heart not working properly.

It could be heart failure, EIA, a tumor on the heart, or something else affecting the circulation of fluids in the body.

There is nothing you can do besides call a vet.

It could be curable if it’s something like a reaction to being poisoned but your horse would still need medical treatment including Lasix.

If it’s mastitis, also life threatening.

There are many causes for ventral edema (it is not always from heart failure or failure of circulation). However, several of them are fairly severe, including some infectious agents, so this is something I would get evaluated ASAP. If anything, get your vet on the phone today and get their opinion, even if they can’t get out immediately.

OP - I recently put my old horse down as a result of congestive heart failure. He had atrial fib for at least 8 years, and two evaluations of the heart size/functioning during that time.
Ventral edema is a definite sign of heart deterioration - but also could be a number of other things.
In my situation, the vets said that CHF would also result in the horse seeming lethargic or depressed, weight loss and exercise intolerance/breathing issues. I actually saw the first two, but no breathing issues. His heart also sounded very noisy per vet - like a sneaker in the dryer. He was never sensitive to touch. His swelling went from chest to sheath, and was even on both sides. We put him on Lasix for several days until I could make some decisions, arrangements etc.

I would agree to fast vet response, but will add that it could be a hematoma due to trauma, or maybe a bite from something. Etc. Ideally ultrasound equipment would be helpful. In the meantime if you have a stethoscope, check her heart sounds and rate. Good luck

I wouldn’t completely panic yet — my horse had something very similar and it turned out to be a bad reaction to some sort of bug bite. PHEW! A few days of bute and he was cleared up. But given the posts above, I would have a vet out asap to be sure.

Also, renal failure. Agree with the majority here… vet. Now.

OP is in Queensland Australia, some of these areas are very remote ranch type areas with thousands of acres of grazing in outback. Not unusual to not have veterinary care at your disposal. This is not the east coast or urban United States. I think it looks like she was either bitten or ate something that caused a reaction. I hope it resolves and is not serious.

Okay, yes, Australia. Queensland. Didn’t notice that or factor it in. The number of toxic critters and pests down under is phenomenal. That makes bug, lizard, snake, bite much more plausible than in my neck of the woods.

you need a vet asap… dont work weekends find a large animal vet not a dog and cat one…or wildlife one that deal with emergencies they have ggod equine vets in oz… failing that call the rspca out other they have large animals vets on call that will come out …as they are there to help and educate theres always a solution…

She said she couldn’t get a vet out on the weekend (or didn’t want to pay the emergency call fee I assume). It is now Monday. She needs to have a vet out and not be encouraged by online posters to wait and see.

It is most likely edema, but IMHO it is probably secondary to mastitis judging from the photos (NB: disclaimer-- one cannot make an actual diagnosis from photos.)

So yes, it needs a look from a DVM who can recommond appropriate therapy, but I doubt it’s secondary to heart failure.