What are Calcaneal Bursitis?
In calcaneal bursitis, there is inflammation and distension of the calcaneal bursa. It may be spontaneous, trauma related, or a secondary or intrathecal hemorrhage. Calcaneal bursitis may also occur in association with gastrocnemius tendonitis.
Refusal to walk, lameness, and heat in the leg may mean that your equine companion is experiencing pain related to inflammation. Your equine veterinarian will assess the problem by using imaging tools such as x-rays, and also by ordering blood tests to determine if underlying illnesses could be related to the symptoms.
Treatment can range from medication to surgery; the therapy will depend on the severity of the condition. Prognosis can be good, but may also become guarded if infection sets in. Timely therapy is key to the recovery of your horse.
In calcaneal bursitis in horses, the calcaneal or the intertendinous bursa is affected. The calcaneal bursa is located between the tendons of the gastrocnemius and the superficial digital flexor muscles near the hock and extends toward the distal tarsus.
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Symptoms of Calcaneal Bursitis in Horses
As with any form of bursitis, if you suspect that your horse is having a medical issue, contact your veterinarian immediately for an assessment. Quickly diagnosing and treating calcaneal bursitis will give your horse a great chance of making a complete recovery.
- Swelling near the hock
- Localized heat
- Behavior changes associated with pain
- Refusing to walk
- Refusing to stand or bear weight on the leg
- Unwillingness to eat or drin
- Visible puncture wound near the hock
Causes of Calcaneal Bursitis in Horses
Direct trauma or a wound such as a puncture near the hock are the most likely cause of calcaneal bursitis in your horse. It can occur spontaneously or from the tearing of the calcaneal bursa. Repetitive trauma, such as jumping or kicking can also cause calcaneal bursitis. There are instances when it occurs with gastrocnemius tendonitis.
Diagnosis of Calcaneal Bursitis in Horses
Your veterinarian will do an initial assessment of your horse, probably by watching them walk, observing their behavior and asking questions about their daily routine and exercise regimen. Once the initial assessment has been completed, a thorough physical examination will be conducted including palpating the sore or swollen area.
Your veterinarian may also run blood tests and urinalysis to determine if an infection is present. Radiographs and ultrasounds may be used to determine if there is excess fluid within the calcaneal bursa and the extent of the damage being caused.
Treatment of Calcaneal Bursitis in Horses
Once your veterinarian has made a full diagnosis, a treatment plan will be made for your horse. Follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan exactly as prescribed and should you have any questions or concerns regarding your horse’s treatment, contact your veterinarian for another consult.
Rest is integral in helping your horse heal. Stall rest is always best with a thick layer of bedding to cushion the leg. In some cases, bandaging the affected area may be helpful in alleviating pain and swelling.
Medications may also be required if the calcaneal bursitis is severe. Antibiotics will combat any bacteria that may be present and minimize infection. Corticosteroids will help with pain and swelling, as will anti-inflammatory medications.
Surgery via arthroscopy may be necessary to flush the bursa and repair the damage. Post-surgical care will need to be discussed with your veterinarian to minimize the possibility of re-injury or infection.
Recovery of Calcaneal Bursitis in Horses
Recovery will largely depend on the severity of the calcaneal bursitis. With cases that require rest only, recovery is almost always complete. The timeframe for recovery does vary depending on the horse and degree of damage that has been done.
Horses recovering from surgery still have a good prognosis, provided they do not get an infection that hampers their recovery. The recovery time will again vary, depending on the rate of healing and the amount of damage.
In cases where the calcaneal bursa becomes septic, the prognosis is guarded. Treatments must be aggressive to keep the infection from spreading.
To ensure that your horse has the best chance of making a complete recovery from calcaneal bursitis, quick veterinary treatments are key. Keeping your horse under continual care and monitoring while recovering will ensure that any changes that may hamper recovery are found quickly.