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Blemishes and Swelling in Horses: When to Call the Vet?

Equestrians know their horses like the back of their hand, yet sometimes a new lump or swelling can catch even the most observant horse owner off guard. Understanding when to worry and when it’s just another harmless blemish is key to maintaining your horse’s health. This guide will walk you through common equine lumps and bumps, helping you make an informed decision about seeking veterinary care.

Questions Before Calling the Vet If you spot an unfamiliar lump or bump on your horse, consider these five questions:

  1. Where is the lump located? The location can provide significant clues about the lump’s nature.
  2. How long has it been there? New growths warrant more attention than those that have been stable for a long time.
  3. What is its consistency? Is the lump hard and bony, or soft and squishy?
  4. Is it painful? A lump causing discomfort or pain to your horse should not be overlooked.
  5. Does it cause lameness? If the lump is on a leg and your horse shows signs of lameness, immediate veterinary attention is required.

10 Common Lumps and Bumps in Horses

  1. Teething Bumps (Eruption Cysts): Common in young horses, these hard and bony lumps appear on the lower jaw due to emerging permanent teeth.
  2. Abscessed Submandibular Lymph Node: If an abscess forms in a lymph node, it can result in a round, hard lump, which may need veterinary attention if it’s related to serious infections like strangles.
  3. Pressure Bump: Often caused by ill-fitting tack, these firm lumps appear under saddle or cinch areas.
  4. Seroma: A fluid-filled sac usually resulting from trauma, seromas feel like water balloons and often resolve on their own.
  5. Ventral Edema: Fluid accumulation on the belly, which can range from benign to a symptom of a serious underlying condition.
  6. Splint: Hard, bony lumps on the leg resulting from stress or trauma to the splint bones. Fresh splints causing lameness should be evaluated by a vet.
  7. Ringbone: Hard bumps around the pastern joint indicating arthritis, often leading to lameness.
  8. Tendon Injury: Firm, sensitive lumps over the tendon area can signify an injury requiring veterinary assessment.
  9. Scar Tissue: Scars can leave hard, ropey lumps, usually non-painful and stable.
  10. Tumor: Any new, growing lump that doesn’t fit other descriptions should be checked, especially in gray horses where melanomas are common.

Familiarity with your horse’s body is essential. Regular grooming and observation help you distinguish between normal variations and concerning changes. When in doubt, especially if the lump is new, growing, or causing pain and lameness, it’s always wise to consult with your veterinarian. Remember, early detection and intervention are key to effectively managing potential health issues in your equine companion.


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Blemishes and Swelling in Horses: When to Call the Vet?