The chal­lenge of

EQUUS - - Conversati­ons -

Al­though some of th­ese signs are dis­tinc­tive, cel­luli­tis is not nec­es­sar­ily easy to di­ag­nose be­cause many other prob­lems---frac­ture, bruis­ing, joint in­fec­tion, to name a few---can cause sud­den, painful swelling in a leg. Swelling may also hide ev­i­dence of a punc­ture wound, snakebite or an­other prob­lem. “We might do ra­dio­graphs or ul­tra­sound to rule out a frac­ture and to look for sep­sis or in­fec­tion in a joint; it would be im­por­tant to rule those things out be­fore be­gin­ning treat­ment for cel­luli­tis,” says Fogle. “Imag­ing would also help us look for an ab­scess that might re­sult from the bac­te­rial in­fec­tion.”

Blood­work may show el­e­vated white blood cells and other in­di­ca­tors of in­fec­tion, while other lab­o­ra­tory tests may pro­vide im­por­tant clues. “Of­ten the ve­teri­nar­ian will want to cul­ture a sam­ple of any drainage com­ing from the leg or from a wound,” says Mudge. “Some­times he or she will ul­tra­sound the leg and try to find a pocket of fluid to as­pi­rate a sam­ple to cul­ture. This will show which bac­te­ria are in­volved and en­able us to know which an­tibi­otic will be most ef­fec­tive.”

Your ve­teri­nar­ian may also sug­gest nu­clear scintig­ra­phy, es­pe­cially if your horse has had cel­luli­tis be­fore. “The pur­pose of this imag­ing tech­nique is to eval­u­ate cir­cu­la­tion to see how well the lym­phatic and ve­nous sys­tems are work­ing to re­turn the blood and fluid from the limb,” Fogle says. “Of­ten with cel­luli­tis, par­tic­u­larly with chronic cel­luli­tis, the func­tion of the ve­nous and lym­phatic sys­tems can be se­verely im­paired.”


Once cel­luli­tis has been di­ag­nosed, treat­ment will be­gin im­me­di­ately. “The longer the leg stays swollen, the greater the risk for com­pli­ca­tions,”

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