A Haematoma, or blood under the skin, is a semisolid mass of blood in the tissues, caused by injury, disease, a break in the blood vessels or a clotting disorder. A Haematoma can also be known as a Blood blister.
Haematomas are often caused by bruising of the underlying tissue in the horse's body. The make-up of the horse's body with loose skin and large fluid-carrying vessels under the skin makes it prone to collecting pockets of blood which ooze from damaged blood vessels. Haematomas develop quite quickly - within a few hours after a direct blow, you will see the soft swelling containing the pooled blood forming under the skin. The size of the haematoma can very in size from a ping-pong ball to a pumpkin.
The chest is the most frequent area of injury because of kicks and falls.
There is often little pain associated with the haematoma, except where severe bruising has occurred.
You must not exercise a horse with a haematoma, as the damaged vessel may bleed further from the pressure of exercise. It is best to keep the horse quiet and do not rub or massage the area, as this may dislodge blood clots over the damaged blood vessel and cause further damage.
If the haematoma has just developed and is still increasing in size, blood leakage can be reduced by hosing down the area with cold water. You could also apply a frozen ice pack gently to the area for about 10 mins. Leave a gap of an hour or two and repeat this procedure. The aim is to reduce the oozing internal blood and stem the leakage.
Many haematomas will heal without treatment, but you should have vet check them out to rule out any other cause of the lump.
SYMPTOMS OF EQUINE HAEMATOMA
- Sudden appearance of a large bump or lump in usually the areas of the hindquarters, chest, or along the ribs.
- Lump filled with fluid
- Broken skin
- Affected area feels warm
CAUSES OF EQUINE HAEMATOMA
- A direct blow to the upper body by kicks, saddle movement, or bumps
- Bruising of underlying tissue
- The horse running into something solid
- The horse being kicked by another horse
- The horse falling down when running
- The horse falling when bucking
- The hitting or injuring himself.
TREATMENT OF EQUINE HAEMATOMA
Large haematomas need veterinary attention. The treatment will vary considerably from horse to horse as haematomas vary so much in location, size and seriousness. Your vet will probably want to wait a few days to allow the blood vessels to stop oozing blood before trying to drain the fluid and remove blood clots by perhaps opening the haematoma. This has to be done by the vet in order to minimise the risk of infection and complications. Most vets like to leave the haematoma alone because of the high risk factor with infections from bacteria.
Medication such as antibiotics or bute may then be prescribed.
Your vet may also advise a tetanus booster or antitoxin injection to guard against tetanus spores.
Your vet may also physically try to break down the clot by gently massaging the area. This can be painful so must be undertaken gently. Never try to do this yourself.
If you can get either Arnica or ice on the swelling very soon after the injury has been inflicted it will have great effect. Repeat the procedure after an hour or so.
When the haematoma has gone down, your horse may not look quite the same as he did beforehand! When large haematomas are not drained and clots removed, deformed scar tissue often results. Your vet can give treatment for this and massage therapy is also very helpful in avoiding the scars.
After time and treatment, the bump or lump should go away and the horse will be unaffected overall.