Rupture of the Common Digital Extensor Tendon Average Cost

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What is Rupture of the Common Digital Extensor Tendon?

Horses can present with lameness for many reasons, one being a ruptured digital extensor tendon.  Other symptoms your horse may display are just as vague as the lameness, meaning there could be a lot of causes for the symptom.  During examination, the veterinarian may want to use the ultrasound to check exactly which tendon was affected and how severely.  Treatment includes rest with controlled exercise and additional supportive therapies, such as splints.  If the rupture is the only thing affecting your horse, his prognosis of recovery is good; if he has other issues too, his prognosis may decline.

Rupture of common digital extensor tendons in horses can be from injury or from congenital defect.  If your horse is lame, not acting like himself, or seems warm in his muscle areas, contact your veterinarian.

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Symptoms of Rupture of the Common Digital Extensor Tendon in Horses

Symptoms you may see in your horse with this condition may include

  • Soft fluid swelling over dorsolateral aspect of carpus and distal radius 
  • Heat in the area
  • Pain
  • Loss of normal range of motion
  • Lameness 


The job of the tendon is to connect the muscle to the bone.  It plays a role in the movement sequence that goes from the horse’s brain to the actual act of moving of the limb.  There is a congenital form, where the foal is already born with the deformity, or there is the non-congenital form that can occur at any age and is typically from some type of injury.

Causes of Rupture of the Common Digital Extensor Tendon in Horses

Causes of this condition in foals can be congenital or can develop within the first few weeks of life.  It can be a primary result or secondary result of carpal or fetlock deformities.  This condition can also occur in older horses because of injury.  Strains are the most common injury associated with tendon rupture.

Diagnosis of Rupture of the Common Digital Extensor Tendon in Horses

Your veterinarian will begin by collecting a thorough verbal history from you.  She will want to know what your horse has been doing, where he has been, when the symptoms began, how quickly they have progressed, and so on.  She will then continue with a physical exam to check not only the abnormal area but the entire horse as a whole.  There can sometimes be a small skin wound associated with ruptured tendons so she will take special care to examine the skin in the area.

The veterinarian will want to take imaging of the affected area.  Ultrasonography is the best method to confirm this condition.  With the use of an ultrasound, your veterinarian will be able to evaluate exactly which tendon is affected, the degree of injury, quality of healing, and in turn, create a personalized treatment plan specifically for your horse.

Treatment of Rupture of the Common Digital Extensor Tendon in Horses

The best treatment you can offer your horse is supportive.  Stall rest is always needed so that he does not make the condition worse.  Splints and bandages may be utilized to prevent secondary tendon contracture and knuckling.  Gentle, controlled walks for exercise are essential to the healing process so that doing so can create controlled tension on the tendons.  The tension is needed for healing to occur.  If you put your horse out to pasture, you risk the chance of making his condition worse.  Without being managed, he is likely to canter or trot around leading to too much stress on the damaged tendons.  

Reduction of inflammation is also important when it comes to the healing process.  For the first 24-48 hours after injury occurs, it is beneficial to used cooling techniques on the area, such as cold packs and hosing.  After the 48 hours, warm therapies provide better relief. The heat increases blood flow to the area which promotes healing.  Anti-inflammatory medications can be given by injection or orally depending on your horse’s needs.  

Laser light therapy, also known as photobiomodulation, is another form of treatment you can use on the ruptured tendon.  This therapy involves going over the injured area with a therapeutic laser light.  This increases circulation in the area, provides an analgestic affect, and promotes increased healing.

If there is a skin wound associated with your horse’s ruptured tendon, it is important to treat and prevent contamination.  The wound should be cleaned and bandaged and antimicrobial therapies should be considered.

Recovery of Rupture of the Common Digital Extensor Tendon in Horses

If rupture is the only thing affecting your foal, prognosis of recovery is very good.  However, if there are additional abnormalities, such as flexural deformities or cuboidal bone deformities, his prognosis declines.