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Sound with a Chance of Windpuffs: Diagnosing and Treating Windpuffs in Horses

Sound with a Chance of Windpuffs: Diagnosing and Treating Windpuffs in Horses

Windpuffs… the name sounds a lot friendlier than they look. Even though they sounds like a type of friendly cloud, windpuffs can be found on the back of your horse’s legs. Although not usually associated with lameness, these soft, fluid-filled pouches on the sides and rear of the fetlock joint can look alarming. Windpuffs can present as purely aesthetic with no soreness or lameness or as an indicator of a more serious condition due to recent injury in which the horse is notably lame. Don’t worry, diagnosing and treating windpuffs isn’t complicated. small windpuffs

Diagnosing Windpuffs

You pulled your horse out of the stall and his legs are swollen. What now?
The first thing to consider is whether the horse has a windpuff or is just stocked up from standing. Some horses’ legs swell from standing around overnight, especially after heavy exercise. This can look a little like a windpuff but is entirely different. Stocked up legs are due to poor circulation, not injury. After the horse exercises and moves around, this type of swelling disappears.
 
In contrast, a windpuff is fluid in the tendon sheath and doesn’t disappear. They occur where the digital flexor tendon sheath covers the two tendons that go around the back of the fetlock. Tendons, especially where they glide over a hard surface such as bone, have lubrication to prevent friction that might interfere with smooth movement. Swelling in this area of the fetlock usually means the sheath or the structures within it have been stretched or injured. Extra fluid has pooled at the sight of the new/old injury which causes the sheath to bulge like a  water balloon. In chronic cases the sheath lining will remain thickened. In those cases fluid levels will vary with the horse’s exercise levels but never go away completely.
 
Your veterinarian can determine if you horse’s windpuffs need to be viewed with an ultrasound or are something you don’t need to worry about. The history of your horse’s legs will be very important to your vet. If your horse has had small windpuffs for many years and they don’t seem to be bothering him, they may not be an issue. However if all of a sudden one leg seems worse than the other or the horse is lame, those changes should be documented and reported to your vet.
 
Treatment
If your horse’s windpuffs are due to an acute injury or scar tissue, he might need treatment. With an acute injury the first step is resting the horse and using ice or bandaging, just as you’d do for a human with a sprained ankle or muscle injury. Cold therapy and wrapping for support will often resolve a simple strain/sprain. Support wrapping after exercise or straining can also help keep old windpuffs under control. Draper Therapies® No Bows have helped several customers manage their horse’s windpuffs. Celliant® helps increase local blood flow which in turn can help move pooled fluid back to its proper place.
 
Steroids, injections, and draining are also options for severely afflicted horses. Your vet will be the best judge of how aggressively your horse’s windpuff treatment needs to be.
 
The Takeaway
Don’t panic! Windpuffs are very treatable and can be managed.

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