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Investigation and management of the swollen fetlock joint

16 Nov 2023
RVC Equine Theatre 2

The fetlock joint is a vital high motion joint in the horse. Hence, we need to plan how to approach and treat the swollen fetlock. Firstly, a simple history and signalment can be an important factor in how you approach the swollen fetlock. For example, a Thoroughbred in training reportedly 4/5 lame, a condylar fracture might be on the radar; and a horse living out might have a more diffuse oedema related to mud fever or even a foot abscess. It is important to establish if there is any systemic disease or polysynovitis and also establish if the swelling is focal or more generalised. Palpation can help us distinguish between oedema vs joint effusion and assist in identifying any instability, wounds, heat or pain that can again help start to direct further diagnostics and treatment. Furthermore, it will also help identify other structures that are neighbouring the fetlock joint which could involved such as the suspensory branches and digital flexor tendon sheath. We’ve all heard the phrase No Foot, No Horse but we could change this to No Fetlock, No Horse

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