Equine Bed Sores & Lameness

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A horse's legs, hocks and hooves are common sites for bedsores and lameness.
A horse's legs, hocks and hooves are common sites for bedsores and lameness. (Image: horse legs image by Vita Vanaga from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Equine bedsores are a bothersome, but often manageable, condition in horses. They are commonly referred to as “hock sores” for their customary position on a horse’s hocks, but also appear behind the horse’s “elbows” or anywhere on the body where the animal’s skin comes in contact with its stall bedding. Equine lameness is an affliction that refers to an abnormal gait or compensatory stance. Lameness in horses is caused by a multitude of factors and treated with a myriad of therapies.

Signs

Bedsores are apparent to the naked eye, usually as silver dollar-sized circles on a horse’s body where the skin and hair has rubbed away. Bedsores may be open sores or rough patches of bare skin.

Lameness in horses refers to any abnormality of movement. Most commonly, head bobbing, unwillingness to move or an unusual way of standing indicate that a horse is experiencing discomfort and may be lame. Atypical pockets of fluid, places of swelling, heat and redness also indicate equine lameness.

Causes

Horses get bedsores from lying down or rolling on abrasive surfaces. Often, when there is not enough bedding in the horse’s stall, or the bedding is pushed away from the hard surface it covers, the animal lies down to sleep and awakens with sores.

The causes of equine lameness are less straightforward. For the most part, however, lameness is caused by either degenerative disease, traumatic injury, allergic reaction, metabolic disease or, less commonly, by poorly fitted tack or neurological disorder.

Locations

Bedsores are often located on the horse’s hocks, as the skin is close to the bone, making for less fleshy padding between the horse’s body and the ground or abrasive surface.

Lameness is often located throughout the horse’s body, but is most common in the hoof, leg, shoulders, back, stifle and hocks. The tendons, joints, back and hoof of a horse are the most common sites of lameness.

Treatments

To treat equine bedsores, it is best to use a drying agent, usually in spray form because ointments and creams only perpetuate the wounds by keeping them wet. Another option for the treatment of equine bedsores located on the hocks are to fit the horse with hock boots. These are lightweight, form fitting boots that fit around the horse’s hocks, safeguarding them against further irritation.

Treatment of equine lameness is a less straightforward process that can vary from cold and heat therapies via boots and wraps, to supplements and injections. Depending on the location and cause of the lameness, constant stall rest and standing wraps may be necessary.

Considerations

Bedsores are easily treated at home. However, should they become open and bloody, bedsores are potential sites of infection and may require veterinary attention.

Lameness almost always calls for professional assistance as the causes and cures are less easy to diagnose. A vet will perform diagnostic imaging tests, as well as a comprehensive physical evaluation necessary to determine and diagnose the source of the lameness.

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