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Such swellings include bursitis, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sac that lies between a tendon and skin, or between a tendon and bone.

Examples include a capped hock or elbow, hygroma of the knee, a thoroughpin, an articular windgall or some bog spavins.

While these swellings may be unsightly, they rarely compromise performance. They will only occasionally become so pronounced that they limit joint mobility and cause physical unsoundness.

Needle drainage (with or without a corticosteroid injection) and pressure bandaging frequently has disappointing results – the distension usually returns rapidly once the pressure is removed.

Surgical removal is difficult and traumatic, with post-operative swelling and scarring often compounding the pre-existing fibrous deformity.

Vets will rule out the presence of any underlying pathology by X-raying, ultrasound scans or other investigations, before agreeing to attempt to reduce a swelling.

For the full veterinary article ‘Under the knife’, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (27 October 2011)

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