How’s it going?

I hope you’re doing well. Have you ever seen a horse with swollen, puffy hocks?

This image is one example:

Let me tell you a “Renee secret”…

Most of the time (not always), the primary cause of a swollen hock is the OTHER LEG.

Hocks have a lot of problems. They’re always getting injected because of it.

But why?

If you have one swollen or puffy hock, it is a sign of compression of that hock. The joint fluid is compressed between the bones….and it has to go somewhere.

So some of the joint fluid goes to the outside of the hock.

You can feel the fluid when you push on the swollen or puffy part. The swelling is easy to push in with your finger, and bounces right back out when you stop pushing. (If it doesn’t, you may have tendon or ligament swelling –also called effusion– instead.)

Ok so we have a compressed hock and the swelling is the joint fluid.

Back to the why:

Typically, the compression of the hock happens due to over-weighting of the leg.

Why would there be too much weight on one leg? Because it is the other rear leg that hurts, or in some way cannot bear full weight.

Take a look at the horse from the rear. You’ll see less muscling in the other rear leg.

This means that the leg with the swollen/puffy hock has been compensating for a long time. Eventually, the hock gets compressed. And then after a while, the swelling appears.

Could the hock benefit from injections? Probably. But it won’t last long.

Because the hock is not the problem.

Here’s to always finding the why,
Renee Tucker, DVM

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