Editor's note: Summer is fast approaching, and horse people are using their horses more. This month we are focusing an article each week on inflammation to help you understand what it is and how to manage it.
Cold therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs have a great role in curtailing the inflammatory response to injury or disease. But, what other strategies can you use to control swelling and pain for your horse’s injury?
With a lower leg injury, even the slightest swelling can render a horse quite lame and uncomfortable. While waiting for drugs and icing to take effect, it helps to provide support to the tissues by using a compression bandage. This bandage is not meant to constrict the tissues in any way, but rather it is useful to confine the tissues within their normal expansion size. Good padding is important beneath the bandage to ensure there is no restriction to circulation.
Bandaging materials used include roll cotton or cotton batting wrapped around the lower limb, which is then covered with a track bandage, Elastikon tape or VetWrap. VetWrap products tend to tighten and bind whereas Elastikon has some give to its material so is safest to use.
Good circulation is important to wick away tissue “fluid” build-up, also known as edema. Walking exercise is a useful method to use to help with this objective. Even 10 or 15 minutes once or twice a day of active walking can “milk” away the swelling in limbs or from the lower abdomen, and keep it gone for a while.
Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) is a potent anti-inflammatory medication that is often used on horses to minimize swelling and inflammation. It can be rubbed on as a gel with or without an overlay of bandaging. It can also be given systemically (by stomach tube or intravenously) to achieve a whole body anti-inflammatory effect.
Epsom Salt Soaks
Soaking an area with Epsom salts is useful to “draw” out tissue fluid through the principles of osmotic fluid exchange--the high salt content “attracts” water (or in this case tissue edema) to help swelling subside.
Ginger root is reported to have significant anti-inflammatory effects and has been used as a poultice to control inflammation.
Tumeric root is widely used in Asia to provide curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory medication targeting COX-2 prostaglandins. It can be used topically or given orally.
Arnica is another plant derivative with reported anti-inflammatory effects when used topically or consumed orally.
Other plants identified with anti-inflammatory properties include rosemary and hops.
Make sure to tell your veterinarian any herbal or other treatments you have given your horse as drug reactions can take place between herbal and other types of medical treatments.