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What is False Thoroughpin?

Horses can develop lesions known as false thoroughpins which are very similar to actual thoroughpins. An actual thoroughpin is a condition that involves abnormal swelling above the hock. A false thoroughpin can describe any number of swellings that do not extend past the hock. Pain is not associated with a false thoroughpin but it can be a presenting symptom in some cases. The veterinarian will want to take an image either with ultrasonography or radiography. She will then implement supportive treatment and therapies. If it does not help, she may recommend surgical correction if deemed necessary for your horse’s recovery. The severity and chronicity of the false thoroughpin will play a role in the prognosis of your horse’s recuperation.

When a horse develops any type or swelling of a limb or joint, lameness, or resistance to work or exercise, you should call your veterinarian as soon as you can. Any type of limb injury can be very detrimental to your horse so the sooner you seek treatment, the higher his chances of a recovery.

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Symptoms of False Thoroughpin in Horses

Symptoms of false thoroughpin may include:

  • Swelling laterally and medially
  • Fluid filled sac
  • Fibrous bands crossing the sacs
  • May or may not be associated with lameness

Symptoms typically appear proximal to the hock. 


False thoroughpins can vary in makeup and substance. They can appear as a solitary fluid filled sac or it can be multiloculated, meaning it can be more lobulated rather than just one formed structure. It can also be known as a synoviocoele. The walls of the sac can vary in thicknesses and there may be fibrous bands crossing it.

Causes of False Thoroughpin in Horses

Sometimes false thoroughpin lesions are associated with lameness, but sometimes they are not. The exact cause of this condition is not very well understood. They can develop secondary to hematomas in the same area or possibly due to herniation of the tarsal sheath.

Diagnosis of False Thoroughpin in Horses

When diagnosing false thoroughpin in your horse, the veterinarian will want to perform an ultrasound of the affected area. This will give her a look internally as to what is in the swollen area. She may also want to do a positive-contrast radiograph to determine whether the swelling is contained in one area or communicates with other structures of the limb. 

When taking radiographs, she may also take images above and below the swollen area to check for injury or other abnormalities above and below the affected area. If there is lameness involved, the veterinarian may check for causes related to it.

In addition to all the imaging, she may want to perform blood work as routine measures. It will ensure there is nothing else going on such as infection or organ related illnesses. While this may seem unnecessary, it is always a good idea to run routine blood work any time your horse is presenting with a medical condition.

Treatment of False Thoroughpin in Horses

In many cases, false thoroughpins are not associated with any form of lameness. If there are no signs of lameness, the need for treatment may not be necessary. If your horse is experiencing lameness, treatment with corticosteroids via intrathecal application may be utilized. However, you should know even if the lameness and swelling may improve, it is sometimes only a temporary fix and will frequently reoccur. In cases of chronic swelling and lameness, you may want to consider surgical excision. 

Additional forms of therapy and treatment that may help includes cold hosing, bandaging and pain medications. The veterinarian may or may not recommend draining the false thoroughpin depending on the severity of the lesion. She may also recommend you letting him rest for a while. Whether it is stall rest or just put out to pasture, the severity of his condition will determine what he needs.

Recovery of False Thoroughpin in Horses

The severity of the lesion and aggressiveness of the treatment will affect the recovery process of your horse. If surgical excision is applied, the prognosis of a full recovery and return to work declines. In some cases, the swelling spontaneously resolves on its own and does not require any veterinary attention other than monitoring.

Since the cause of this condition is not very well known, prevention of it from developing is almost impossible. The best thing you can do it monitor your horse for any of the slightest abnormalities. If an area seems mildly swollen or warm to the touch, go ahead and begin therapeutic treatments such as application of cold hosing. If it does not improve, call your veterinarian so that she can diagnose his condition properly.