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Initial Treatment of Tendon Injuries in Horses
Bob Judd, DVM, DABVP (Equine Medicine), DABVP (Canine and Feline Practice)
Published: June 07, 2023

Tendon injuries are fairly common in horses. Tendons attach muscle to bone and are prone to injury but there are some initial treatments to use for these injuries

In the publication The Horse, Sherry Johnson, DVM, MS, DACVSMR, says that injury to the superficial digital flexor tendon is the primary reason for the retirement of thoroughbred racehorses. 

The initial injury is bad enough, but reinjury rates of this tendon are as high as 82%. The superficial digital flexor tendon is on the back of your horse’s leg, starting at the knee or hock and extending down to the pastern. It is crucial to treat these possible tendon injuries correctly when they first occur. The first signs of injury are heat, swelling, and pain. 

Other diseases can lead to these symptoms, so you should contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your horse has an injury. However, there are some areas where you cannot see the swelling, such as a deep digital flexor tendon injury inside the hoof capsule. If you suspect a tendon injury or see any signs, get off your horse, walk the horse to a stall, and call your veterinarian. 

The first treatment is to ice the leg for 48 hours. This will reduce inflammation and pain regardless of the diagnosis. Anti-inflammatories are probably going to be needed, but it is best to wait until your veterinarian examines your horse to start these medications.

You can apply a wrap if the lower leg is involved, but be sure you know the correct way to do this. You must use full-thickness cotton under the wrap to avoid too much pressure. 

Tissue repair, remodeling, and scar tissue formation will occur over the next 60 days, and it is crucial that your veterinarian does an initial ultrasound exam to determine the treatment plan and then monitor healing with ultrasound. Depending on the location and degree of injury, multiple treatments, and rehabilitation options exist for tendon injuries.

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