EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

Swollen joints are al­ways cause for con­cern, but if both of your horse’s hind fet­locks be­come puffy in the dead of win­ter, chances are the cause is a rel­a­tively harm­less con­di­tion known as “stock­ing up.”

Rather than in­jury or in­fec­tion, stock­ing up is a func­tion of in­ac­tiv­ity. The equine lym­phatic sys­tem, which is re­spon­si­ble for “pump­ing” ex­cess flu­ids from be­tween cells back into the cir­cu­la­tory sys­tem, works best when aided by move­ment of sur­round­ing ten­dons, mus­cles and lig­a­ments. So when a horse stands still for long pe­ri­ods of time---as he may when con­fined to a stall dur­ing win­ter months---these flu­ids can ac­cu­mu­late, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas far­thest from the heart. Most com­monly, stock­ing up is seen in the hind fet­locks, with sever­ity rang­ing from mild puffi­ness to an ex­treme swelling, giv­ing the leg a “stovepipe” ap­pear­ance. Stock­ing up doesn’t cause lame­ness or af­fect the gait, and each leg will be equally puffy.

Treat­ing stock­ing up is easy. Sim­ply ride your horse, walk him by hand or turn him out with a com­pan­ion. With ac­tiv­ity, swelling will usu­ally di­min­ish within the hour. But be pre­pared for the puffi­ness to re­turn: Many horses stock up re­peat­edly. Part of the rea­son is that once the tis­sues be­tween cells are stretched by ac­cu­mu­lat­ing fluid, they are more sus­cep­ti­ble to fill­ing again. You can try to pre­vent the swelling with stand­ing ban­dages, but there’s no phys­i­o­log­i­cal rea­son to do so, and putting ban­dages on too tightly can cre­ate more se­ri­ous prob­lems than stock­ing up.

By Chris­tine Barakat with Melinda Freck­le­ton, DVM

AT A STAND­STILL: Stock­ing up, a harm­less ac­cu­mu­la­tion of fluid in the lower legs, is as­so­ci­ated with in­ac­tiv­ity. It usu­ally oc­curs in the hind fet­locks.

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