In writing about Ben and his problem with the scratches, I got to wondering how one would differentiate between cellulitis and stocking up. I’ve had my horse stock up while on weekend trail rides when he stands all night on the picket line after a long day of riding. It’s a little bit of a shock to go out in the morning to feed and see him standing there with swollen back legs.
Stocking up is a non-painful, cool swelling of the lower limbs which is caused by the pooling of blood and fluids due to decreased activity. The horse might move out stiffly at first, but the swelling goes away with exercise. Stocking up affects both hind legs, or sometimes all 4, but not just one leg, and older horses seem to be more easily affected.
Cellulitis, on the other hand, is an infection underneath the skin caused by bacteria, secondary to a wound or deep tissue infection. It will only be present in one leg and the swelling is hot and painful. Treatment includes cleansing and caring for the wound itself, administering Phenylbutazone (Bute) and an oral antibiotic, sweat wrapping, cold hosing, and mild exercise once the infection is healing.