Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Why Does My Horse Have a Fat Leg?

Learn about five reasons for limb swelling in horses, from benign triggers to causes for major concern.

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Why Does My Horse Have a Fat Leg?
When assessing a swollen limb, feel it and note abnormalities such as heat, lumps, crusts, or signs of pain. | Photo: Kevin Thompson/The Horse

5 reasons for swelling, from benign triggers to causes for major concern

Your horse’s sleek, strong legs have remained taut and unblemished throughout (and sometimes despite) his athletic pursuits. Then one day as you offer him breakfast, you notice he has a “fat” leg. Is it cause for alarm or something simple to deal with? Let’s look at the variety of causes for limb swelling.

Initial Assessment Steps

Before you assume the worst, consider that in many cases prompt recognition and treatment can resolve leg swelling. Jump on the situation and contact your veterinarian immediately rather than trying the wait-and-see approach.

First, you’ll want to gather information to share with your veterinarian before making the call. Rosemary Cuming, BVSc MS, MANZCVS, Dipl. ACVIM, of Scone Equine Hospital, in New South Wales, Australia, advises owners to make notes about the whole horse—not just his limbs.

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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