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Medical Index
First Posted Dec 6, 2007
Aug 3, 2010

Stocking Up or Static Congestion

by Debora Johnson

When we hear the term "stocking up" most of us think of going out to the grocery store and buying extra food and water. However, in the horse world this term has an totally different meaning.

You go to the barn and take your horse out of the stall to groom or ride and you notice that his hind limbs are swollen. Perhaps his front limbs are swollen, too. Do not panic. There is a good chance that your horse is stocked up. Often a horse that is kept in a stall and does not get to move around in a turn out area gets swelling in the lower limbs. This swelling is caused by fluid draining from tissues. The blood and lymph settles in the extremities. This condition usually abates when the horse gets out and moves about for awhile. This condition does not take your horse off his feed, nor does it cause any long term problems. If, however, the swelling lasts for a week or more, skin problems can arise. Dirt, debris, heat and dampness contribute to infection due to bacteria buildup that hangs out in the swollen skin folds.

It should also be noted that some breeds are more prone to stocking up than others. Heavily muscled horses, such as Quarter horses, are more predisposed to stocking up. Why would this be the case? More body mass and smaller feet make it more difficult to keep the fluids moving. Older horses are also more prone to this condition.

Stocking Up or Something Else?

How can you tell if your horse is stocked up or something else is going on? Check for the following:

  • Heat-Usually not present in stocking up
  • Swelling in only one leg or above fetlock joint-Stocking up usually involves two or more legs and extends from the coronary band to the fetlock joint. On occasion there may be swelling up to the hock, however, this is unusual.
  • Stiffness-This may be apparent when a horse is stocked up.
  • Fever-Not part of stocking up. Probably is another problem.
  • Lameness-Not part of stocking up. Probably is another problem.
  • Off feed-Not a part of stocking up. Probably is another problem.
  • Lethargic-Not a part of stocking up. Probably is another problem.
  • Attitude Change-Not a part of stocking up. Probably is another problem.
  • Gait Problems-Not a part of stocking up. Probably is another problem.
  • Weight Transfer-Not a part of stocking up. Probably is another problem.

Some Other Possible Problems

If you determine the swelling is not caused by stocking up there are many other causes of swelling. The following are just a few: joint problems, suspensory ligaments, tendons, soft tissue damage, infections including Potomac Horse Fever (PHF) and Equine Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis (EGE), viruses such as Equine Viral Arteritis; a respiratory disease (EVA), hoof abscesses, trauma, neurological diseases, orthopedic problems, Hypoproteinemia (low protein blood levels), skin infections such as Cellulitis, and Purpura Hemorrhagica. (See also: Equine Lameness) Call your vet.

Treatment For Stocking Up

To treat stocking up you can turn your horse out, hand walk, longe, hose legs with cold water for 20 minutes, or mildly exercise him. If stocking up continues an anti-inflammatory can be applied such as magnesium sulfate. (Menthol and Epsom Salts) Menthol increases circulation and Epsom Salts reduces the fluids. If the swelling still persists your vet might suggest something such as diuretics, corticosteroids or acepromazine.

Preventions for Stocking Up

  • Exercise More
  • Turnout More
  • Wrap - Use support wraps with under padding when your horse is stalled. Do not leave them on for more than 12 hours.
  • Diet Change-Less carbs, more fat and roughage. (Beet pulp/grass hay)
  • Increase horse's circulation-Use astringents after riding. This increases circulation. Rub your horse's legs with witch hazel or rubbing alcohol.

Always check with your vet before medicating.

For More Information:

Stocking Up An excellent article/Comprehensive.

Medical Index