Most people would consider a cast on a horse to indicate a significant health issue. And they’d be right; problems requiring a cast are significant, and the challenges don’t stop there, with cast application; researchers on a recent study found that nearly half (49.5%) of horses with limb casts experience complications (such as pressure sores or cast breakage).

John Janicek, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, of Weems and Stephens Equine Hospital, in Aubrey, Texas, presented a recent review of complications in 398 horses wearing half- or full-limb casts at four referral centersthe University of Missouri, Iowa State University, the University of Georgia, and Purdue Universityat the 2011 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio. 

Researchers made the following observations:

  • Hind limbs were more frequently casted than front limbs;
  • Soft tissue problems (severe wounds/severe tendon problems) were casted slightly more often than hard tissue problems (such as fractures);
  • Complications included cast sores (45% of all casted horses), cast breakage (5%), secondary fracture (0.7%), and other issues. Complications generally showed up within two weeks of application regardless of the cast type used, with cast breakages usually occurring within five days;
  • Bandage casts were much less common than traditional fiberglass tape casts (13