Cellulitis In Horses Treatment Options

Last Updated on October 26, 2022

Skin problems in horses such as cellulitis can be a frustrating issue to deal with, and there are many different cellulitis in horses treatment options available. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about cellulitis, including the best cellulitis in horses treatment options!

What Is Cellulitis In Horses?

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects the tissues underlying the skin of a horse. It causes extreme swelling and often spreads over an extensive area. The most common site of cellulitis in horses is on the lower limbs.

The main cellulitis in horses symptoms include severe lameness and extensive swelling of the skin. This condition is very painful, and the lameness is often likened to horses that have a more severe injury, such as tendon strain or fractured bones. If your horse ever appears to be this lame, it is vital to seek veterinary advice immediately.

The swelling in the skin of horses with cellulitis often compromises the circulation around the limb. This, combined with the bacterial infection, will cause the skin to crack and ooze.

Cellulitis normally occurs as a result of a minor abrasion or cut to the skin. Bacteria enter the lower skin layers through this wound, where it quickly proliferates and causes an extensive infection.

Can You Ride A Horse With Cellulitis?

In the initial stages, cellulitis is a very painful condition for a horse and you should not ride a horse with cellulitis. Over time, as the infection resolves, some gentle exercise may help to reduce any residual swelling. However, it would be preferable to walk the horse in hand or turn it out to exercise rather than riding it.

Cellulitis In Horses Treatment Options

When treating cellulitis in horses, the focus is on resolving the underlying infection as well as reducing the swelling as quickly as possible. Excessive swelling, such as in the case of cellulitis, can be very detrimental to the circulation of lymph and blood around the limb. The circulation problems may remain even after the cellulitis is resolved, leaving the horse prone to a recurrence of this condition.

Medical Treatments For Cellulitis In Horses

In the initial stages, horses with cellulitis are normally very lame. Your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to help fight the bacterial infection. Painkillers in the form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids will help to reduce inflammation as well as make your horse feel more comfortable.

In severe cases, your veterinarian may also prescribe diuretics. These are drugs that promote the removal of fluid from the body and will help to reduce excessive swelling.

Other Therapies For Cellulitis In Horses

In addition to medical therapies, it is also necessary to undertake other management to help reduce the swelling in the leg. In the initial stages, the horse will be reluctant to move and it is important to let it rest until the pain subsides. The best management at this stage is to hose the leg with cold water to help reduce swelling.

If the leg swells to the extent that the skin starts to crack and ooze, then you will need to help keep this clean to prevent further infection. Wash the leg twice daily with a gentle antibacterial solution and then pat it dry using a clean towel each time. If the skin becomes sore, your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated cream to help soothe it.

Horse Ice Pack with Carry Case – Cooling Leg Wrap for Hock, Ankle, Knee, Legs, Boots, and Hooves

Once the swelling and pain in a horse with cellulitis start to subside, you can start movement therapy. A horse with cellulitis should never be forced to move, and you should never attempt any of these treatments if the horse is still lame.

Movement is the single most useful way to disperse swelling from the lower limb. You can gently bend and flex the leg if the horse will allow you. When the horse is comfortable enough, you can take it for short walks.

Should You Ice Cellulitis In Horses?

While hosing the leg with cold water is a great way to reduce the swelling in a case of cellulitis, ice packs should be avoided. Ice may cool the skin surface to the extent that cellular damage can occur. This can cause permanent or long-term damage to the tissues and make the recovery time from cellulitis more prolonged.

If the area affected is difficult to hose, such as on the underside of the horse’s body, you can apply cold water compresses instead. Take a towel or cloth and dampen it liberally with cold water. Place this onto the affected area for up to 15 minutes at a time.

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How To Avoid Cellulitis In Horses

Some horses are more prone to cellulitis than others, but there are steps you can take to prevent this problem from occurring. Keep your horse’s legs clean and dry and treat any scratches, no matter how small, promptly with an antibacterial cream. Larger wounds can be bandaged to help prevent bacterial contamination.

Unfortunately, once a horse has had cellulitis, it will always be more predisposed to a recurrence of this condition. This is because the circulation within that area will have become compromised and the tissues will swell more easily. You may find that the horse’s legs start to fill when it is stood still for long periods, so ensure it has a routine that allows for plenty of exercises.

How To Avoid Cellulitis In Horses

Summary – Cellulitis In Horses Treatment

So, as we have learned, cellulitis in horses is a bacterial infection that affects the lower layers of the skin. It causes extensive swelling, normally of the lower leg, and the skin may crack and ooze. Cellulitis in horses treatment options includes antibacterial drugs and therapies to reduce the swelling, such as hydrotherapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and gentle exercise once the lameness has resolved.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the best cellulitis in horses treatment options! Does your horse have recurrent cellulitis that you are struggling to get on top of? Or maybe you’ve come across a new and exciting remedy for cellulitis in horses that you’d like to share with us? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!