Capped Hocks

Can you please explain a little more about what a capped hock is, what causes it, and what I can do for it?

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My horse has suffered from an injury to his hock that my veterinarian called a capped hock. Can you please explain a little more about what a capped hock is, what caused it, and what I can do for it?

ACapped hock, also known as bursitis of the hock, is a fairly common ailment that affects all breeds and disciplines of horses equally. This is an acquired bursitis of the hock caused by trauma, which can result from a trailer accident, bumping against a stall wall with the hocks, or any other instance where the hock is bumped and aggravated. The condition is typically noticed as a firm swelling at the point of the hock, and if lameness does occur, it’s usually mild, but the blemish may be permanent. The swelling can be extensive and accompanied by an edema, depending on the severity of the trauma.

Due to the nature of the disease, the condition tends to recur and become worse every time it occurs if it’s not treated aggressively the first time. If accumulation of the fluid is not reduced in a reasonable period of time, then a subcutaneous bursa or "false" bursa will develop. At this point, once the fluid accumulation has been there for a long period of time, the lining of the subcutaneous sac of the bursa becomes more or less a permanent fixture.

In order to avoid this permanent disfiguration, aggressive treatment should be sought in the acute phase, or the first time a capped hock is diagnosed

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Written by:

Michael A. Spirito, DVM, is a surgeon at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky.

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