Jun 14, 2011
It seems we are seeing more cases of horses with cellulitis than we have in the past. Cellulitis usually results in extensive edematous soft tissue swelling of one or more legs. This may be caused by direct trauma such as a kick or injury. The leg is usually hot and painful, but lameness varies in degree. Cellulitis is often associated with a penetrating wound which tends to be hotter and more painful than noninfectious cellulitis. Radiographs are often required to rule out fracture.
Swollen legs often leak serum from the skin and abscesses may form and drain. Cellulitis is considered an emergency and should be treated promptly and aggressively with broad spectrum antibiotics, NSAIDs, rest, and controlled exercise.
Lymphangitis may result from cellulitis producing a leg that is enlarged and may never return to normal size. Legs that remain swollen longer than a week often develop lymphangitis. Long term corticosteroids, bandaging, and hydrotherapy may be included in treatments.
Cellulitis is a disease process that often returns repeatedly after the initial onset. Horses diagnosed with cellulitis might never return to 100% normal. They may have frequent flare ups requiring treatment, and may be on some form of treatment for the rest of their lives.
The take home message is to treat quickly and aggressively. Please call Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital if you have questions concerning the health of your horse.