I recently had to put down a horse with this condition and so I thought it would be worth the effort to discuss this with you as clients. It is a condition that is frustrating to treat and heartbreaking to watch the horse go through. Lympangitis is an infection in the lymphatic system. It tends to be recurrent and most often affects the hind limbs of horses. Signs are often quick and the horse is in extreme pain from the acutely swollen limb. You horse will generally have a fever greater than 102 F. They may be off feed most likely due to the high fever and pain. You may see muscle trembling, sweating and rapid breath all signs associated with pain.
What causes the grossly swollen limb? Well its thought to start as a cut or wound in the leg that allows for bacteria, most likely a steph, strep or e-coli species to enter and quickly reproduce. Sometimes the lymphatic system ( which is the system in our bodies that go into overdrive to rid us of pathogens such as bacteria) gets overwhelmed and they themselvesves become infected. The lymph ducts and blood vessels become damaged and swollen and lose their stretch with blood and lymph pooling in the way of the valve to open. The heart continues to pump fluid into the system that can’t let any fluid out and therefore we get giant swollen leg. Within hrs to a few days fluid will have no where else to go but out of the now stretched skin and that is when the oozing begins, This serum can actually scald or burn the skin itself creating more inflammation in the already inflamed limb.
What can be done? Well aggressive antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are the first line of defense. Cold water, ice and light bandaging can help as well. Movement is important but often it is difficult to get these patients to move in the first place. Massage therapy, and on occasion epidural blocks to alleviate pain.
What is the prognosis? Unfortunately once the lymphatic system is compressed these horses tend to have recurrent bouts and chronic leg lameness. The hoof on the affected side is often compromised due to decrease blood flow. Proper attention to all feet has to be addressed to avoid laminitis in the other limbs.
Overall a very frustrating and difficult disease process to control and manage….
This article is dedicated to the loving memory of Ari owned and loved by Grace C. He will be missed by many……..