Swollen Hind Leg

My daughter’s horse has had a very swollen hind leg, from stifle to hoof, for several days. He’s a 20+ year old, grade Quarter Horse, who is on winter vacation from his job as a 2D barrel horse. He’s shod with pads and wedges up front, but other than that, is sound and has no health issues.

He has no fever, no lameness in the swollen leg (or any other legs), and is eating and drinking like normal. We just took him out to trot for soundness and he was a horse kite the whole time. He is bright and happy… his usual wild man self. There are no injuries we can find, although he is hairy. Bute had no effect on the swelling.

Dr. Google shows photos of cellulitis and lymphangitis, but says horses with these conditions present as painful. He’s pretty happy and enjoying vacation.

Any ideas of what this could be? I should hear back from the vet tomorrow, but maybe someone has some insight?

Cellulitis does not always present as painful, but I would send the photos to your vet asap because if it’s cellulitis, and it’s that big, it could get serious fast. Check with your vet but I would thinking starting a round of antibiotics asap would be prudent. That sounds like a lot of swelling and I would not be casual about waiting it out. It only takes a pinprick for infection to set in, so not seeing a wound doesn’t suggest there wasn’t a hole somewhere.


I agree with this- and perhaps take your horse’s temperature.

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It’s tomorrow. Interested to read your post on what your vet said about the swelling. Thanks and best wishes.

Totally agree. I would not be waiting to start antibiotics. If he’s eating, may I assume you’ve taken a temperature and it’s normal?

Assume cellulitis, which can easily develop into the very serious lymphangitis. I would not be casual about this in the least. Start antibiotics pronto. Cellulitis is absolutely not always painful

What antibiotic and dosing regimen would y’all recommend?

Some of us don’t have ready access to antibiotics, and on short notice all I have access to are penicillin and tetracycline injectables. That’s from a local TSC which also sells needles and syringes, thank goodness.

are you able to contact vet today?

Take temp, take photos and send them. Possible that vet with prescribe SMZ’s over the phone and you can pick up, depending on your relationship with them…though they probably will want a visit.

I’ve always started with SMZ’s and wrapping for suspected cellulitis, so I can’t speak to other meds.
You DO NOT want this to develop into further complication.

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I’d assume cellulitis, and it is best treated QUICKLY with antibiotics. I’d also do a sweat wrap. Apply furazone, a layer of saran wrap, a pillow wrap, and vet wrap for 12 hours on, 12 hours off to pull out that fluid. Antibiotics are vital for cellulitis.

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A vet should be able to at least look at your pic and meet you somewhere in town to exchange meds if they can’t come to your farm. Or, they can also call in tablets to a normal pharmacy for you to pick up. The antibiotics are the first line of attack.

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A few days have gone by, but I thought I’d update. I went out to check him Friday evening after I posted and the swelling was way down. Saturday morning, I went out early to get photos so I would be ready when the vet called me back… and there was no swelling at all. Since there was no swelling, no fever, no heat in the leg, no lameness, really no symptoms of any kind, we agreed to watch it closely. It’s now Monday morning and the leg is still completely normal. We will continue to monitor and I will haul him to the vet if there’s any signs of puffiness. The vet feels it may have been a slip and fall soft tissue injury, which presents a whole new set of problems on an older horse.


Glad to hear it seems to have resolved on its own.

If this happens again, icing is pretty much always a good idea for a swollen leg. I have the Jack’s ice boots, which makes it really easy to effectively ice a leg and it seems like horses don’t mind them, even though they are big and bulky. And wrapping 12 hours on, 12 hours off. If cellulitis is suspected, in addition to antibiotics, poulticing under the wrap is recommended by my vet.

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