What are Contusions?
Contusions are what are known as bruises. They can be accidentally self-inflicted, from another animal, or from colliding with some sort of structure. Symptoms typically consist of pain, swelling, bruising, and possible loss of body function to the affected area. If you witnessed your horse receiving the injury, diagnosing it is relatively easy. If you didn’t, diagnostics may include palpation of the area with possible imaging. Treatment is therapeutic with the application of cold packs to the area with possible pain medications and antibiotics. There are other more natural holistic approaches to treatment that works just as well. As long as you treat your horse properly and allow him plenty of rest, his prognosis of a full recovery is good.
If your horse develops a contusion, he may need veterinary attention. If you notice any lameness, swelling, or pain in an area and you are not comfortable treating it yourself, give your veterinarian a call.
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Symptoms of Contusions in Horses
Symptoms of contusions may include:
- Loss of function of affected body part
- Heat radiating from the affected area
- Reaction when you touch or manipulate it
Just as a human can bruise any part of their body, so can your horse. For example, he can experience intermuscular, intramuscular, eye, joint, foot, and leg contusions. The most common types are intramuscular which involves the tearing of the muscle and sheath. The other is intermuscular which involves tearing of the muscle within the sheath surrounding it. Intermuscular is considered more threatening because the pressure within the sheath can build up and cause loss of function.
Causes of Contusions in Horses
Blunt force trauma causes contusions in your horse which can occur anywhere on the horse’s body, head or legs. The contusion may be a result of bumping into something, collisions with structures or other animals, kicks or bites from other animals, falls, misjudged jumps, and any other similar experience. Self inflicted trauma during cases of colic is also possible.
Diagnosis of Contusions in Horses
Diagnosis on clinical symptoms alone is possible in most cases. Your horse will be sensitive to the touch, the area will be warm, possibly swollen and bruised. Also, if you as the owner witnessed the incident you will know exactly what happened and when.
The veterinarian may want to take a radiograph to ensure the bone is not affected in any way. She will want to check for fractures or any other breaks. She may also want to take an ultrasound of the area to see exactly which muscles are involved and how deep the injury is.
The veterinarian will also complete a physical exam to check your horse over entirely, looking for other contusions or injuries. Depending on what exactly is bruised, diagnosis can prove to be difficult. For example, if the bone is bruised, it is mostly subjective based on clinical signs unless you want to spend the money on a magnetic resonance image (MRI).
Treatment of Contusions in Horses
The veterinarian will apply multiple methods of treatment to your horse’s contusion. Cold compresses, ice packs, or cold hosing will help decrease swelling and tissue damage to the affected area. If the skin remains intact and not broken, applying cold to the area for 5 minutes then off for 15 minutes will help reduce the swelling.
The veterinarian may want to wrap the area to put pressure on the contusion. This will help keep the swelling down in addition to providing support to the affected muscles. As the swelling decreases, the pain will decrease as well. In the meantime, the veterinarian may recommend and anti-inflammatory medication and analgesic to help with the pain and swelling.
Depending how your horse got the injury, the veterinarian may want to give your horse a tetanus booster and antibiotic medications. If the swelling does not resolve in about one week, the veterinarian may want to drain the area, treat it with antibiotics, and bandage it. Stall rest is also highly recommended.
You can also go a more holistic route and apply an ointment or cream containing arnica which reduces bruising. There are other natural remedies you can utilize and get yourself from natural origins; be sure to let your veterinarian know that you are using these products.
Recovery of Contusions in Horses
If you allow your horse to recovery properly by giving him the proper medications, applying the correct therapies, and allowing him enough rest, he should be able to recover without long term side effects. However, if you do not allow him to heal properly and work him too soon, it will only make things worse. Take care to check your stable, corral, and any other area your horse frequently goes for possible sources of injury.