Lameness with no heat, swelling or obvious injury

Lameness with no heat or swelling

Lameness with no heat, swelling or obvious injury? Read on to find out more…

So, you go to get your horse in from the field when you notice lameness without any heat, swelling or obvious injury. You tentatively walk the horse back to the stable where you can have a closer look, but what do you do next?

In this article, we take a look at what to do when your horse presents with lameness like this, including what to do next.

Lameness in your horse

Sudden onset lameness can be a very scary experience for both you and your horse, and at the moment that it is discovered it can be hard to know what to do for the best.

More often than not, there is a visible reason for lameness, such as a swollen leg or a visible injury sight, for example. But, what do you do when Lameness occurs with no heat or swelling? This type of lameness can have a number of causes and could be anything from an abscess to a fracture. Laminitis, for example, can cause sudden lameness, however, the disease may also present with other typical symptoms of heat, and unbalanced backward stance (among other symptoms).

Reasons for lameness in your horse

Here is a list of potential problems (but not limited to):

  • Early onset Laminitis
  • Back or pelvis problems
  • Imbalance in one or more hooves
  • Other changes in the hoof wall
  • Abscess
  • Kick to a muscle
  • Early onset arthritis
  • Mud fever – often found hiding in the horse’s feathers
  • Poorly fitting tack causing tightness across the back
  • Thrush of the hoof

What to do if your horse is lame with no visible reason why

The first action in all cases of lameness is to make the horse as comfortable as possible which may be keeping the horse standing calmly, box resting or stopping exercise, your decision will depend on the severity of the lameness. Until the situation is under control, you should not ride the horse.

If the lameness is very mild, you may wish to monitor the horse over a couple of days. Often swelling can begin overnight, especially if the injury/problem occurred during the day and he/she is then stood in at night. If, however, your horse is not able to weight bare, or is significantly lame a vet should be called immediately.

Over the following 24 hours, It’s important to keep an eye out for any new:

  • Heat
  • Swelling
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Bleeding
  • Fluid from a cut/small injury
  • Worsening symptoms without any physical explanation

Top tips when checking your horse over

When checking for heat in the horse’s legs, use the same hand to assess the difference in temperature as it is easier to detect a change this way.

Taking your horse’s temperature may be an easy way to detect early infection, somewhere that may not be immediately evident. Anything 40 degrees or over can indicate infection, which can often present alongside shivering and sweating. It is for this reason it’s a good idea to have a digital thermometer for a horse to hand.

If you do find anything unusual, it is always best to contact the vet. Your horse may, however, return to its normal movement leaving a question mark in your head as to what/how the lameness occurred.

In some instances, where there is mild lameness, you may wish to consult with your physio or chiropractor to check for any areas of tightness, or misalignment.

Tips from a professional

Here Alex Mould, the iPET Network’s equine enthusiast, explains what you should do, to give your horse the best care as soon as you detect that they are lame.

Alex says: “Check there if there is anything lodged in the hoof, if the horse is wearing shoes then check the shoe is not twisted. If nothing can be detected there may be an abscess – if it is acute lameness my first thoughts would be an abscess so I would speak to the farrier, but if nothing could be detected and the lameness continues speak to your vet.

“An abscess is like having a stone in your shoe, so many sudden onset bouts of lameness with no swelling can be caused by this.

“Abscesses are very treatable but can cause very dramatic symptoms which come on very quickly.

“Your vet or farrier will do a test, whereby hoof testers (large pincers) are used to apply pressure around the hoof, and if there is a reactive point that suggests there is an abscess, this can be drained and treated by poulticing until the abscess is completely drained.

“If your farrier cannot detect an abscess, you must then speak to your vet, as it could be a sign of a more serious injury elsewhere in the body, which needs urgent care. Lameness is alarming and scary, but don’t panic and seek the support from professionals to take the best course of action.”

No matter what the degree of lameness, it is more often than not recommended you call the vet, even if it is just to ask for advice.

Feature image with thanks to the Animal Health Trust.


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