Lymphangitis, Lameness Conditions

Widespread swelling of a limb below the knee or hock occurs for many reasons. Hind legs are more commonly affected tha forelegs, and usually the entire leg is swollen up to the level of the stifle, resulting in moderate to severe lameness. Surface lymph vessels are prominent and local lymph nodes are enlarged. Serum may exude through the skin. The rectal temperature may be raised. Heavy-hunter types seem especially prone. The clinical signs are fairly typical. The inflammation is often secondary to a chronic low-grade infection of the leg and careful inspection usually reveals an old wound or wounds.

Treatment aims to eliminate the primary infection and reduce the soft-tissue swelling. Relattively long-term treatment with appropriate antibiotics is combined with cold hosing of the leg, bandaging and exercise. Vigorous treatment can produce rewarding results, although the leg may remain prominently thickened. The problem may be recurrent, especially in hind limbs, and careful vigilance is necessary to detect and treat small wounds as early as possible. If your horse has lymphangitis, or is prone to it, never use sports massage.

Sporadic Lymphangitis

Typically the disease would arise in working horses stabled over the weekend. The lymphatic vessels on the inside of the leg are very visible and the leg will be hot and swollen. The horse will stop feeding and exhibit thirst along with patchy sweatting. Constipation is also a coomon feature. Consider using Aconite in the very early stages and Apis or Bovista where the signs fit in later stages when the acute signs have subsided. According to Tim Couzens, author of "Homeopathy for Horses (Threshold Picture Guide)", the most valuable interim remedy to use is Bryonia.

Ulcerative Lymphangitis

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This is a mildly contagious form of lymphangitis caused by a variety of bacteria including Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, streptococci, and staphylococci. It occurs most frequently in horses kept in poor, unhygienic conditions or where overcrowding occurs and follows wounding or cracked heels. One of the first signs is swelling and pain around the pastern or fetlock joints. Nodules then develop in the tissues, following the course of the lymphatic vessels, especially around the fetlock region. These can grow quite large and burst releasing green pus. Affected areas then ulcerate. Local lymphatic vessels enlarge and become thickened. Affected areas will slowly heal, but more nodules and ulcers can occur over a period of several months.

Tim Couzens, author of "Homeopathy for Horses (Threshold Picture Guide)", recommends Merc Sol as the main remedy to use where the nodules have bust and are discharging pus where there are ulcers that bleed easily when touched. Dose: 30c 3 times daily.. Anthracinum is useful where there is no response to Merc Sol, or where crops of discharging nodules keep appearing. Other useful remedies include Muriaticum acid 30c to help heal limb ulcers, Kali iod 30c to prevent more nodules appearing and Silica 30c to help remove scar tissue if the condition has become chronic.


  1. Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners. Captain M.Horace Hayes, F.R.C.V.S.
  2. Homeopathy for Horses. Tim Couzens

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