Support for Horses with Lymphangitis

I have a horse that is just getting over lymphangitis. He has now had 3 severe bouts of it. He is on very good feed, but I am looking for something to boost his immune system. Any suggestions? Thanks. TV, Arizona

I was wondering if you could comment at all about maintenance strategies for a horse with lymphangitis. Thank you. MS, Massachusetts

My horse has gotten Equine Lymphangitis three times. I am doing research on what would help build his immune system so he will be able to fight these infections on his own in the future and hopefully get his lymphatic system functioning properly. He is stabled/boarded in Maryland so he is out on what grass we have because of the drought during the day and eating grass/timothy hay at night. He gets 2 scoops of 10% protein pellets per day as well as 1 scoop of Equine Senior a day. Both products are manufactured by Purina. VS, Maryland

Dear TV, MS and VS,

Lymphangitis, or inflammation and blockage of the lymphatic system, can be a frustrating condition to manage, as the three of you know from personal experience. Unless you’re dealing with the more severe form of the condition, ulcerative lymphangitis (not uncommon in a dry western state such as Arizona), caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis, you may never know what caused the original limb swelling in your horses. And unfortunately, many horses that develop “big leg” or “fat leg” are predisposed to limb swelling again and again.

Because some experts believe this impairment of normal lymph drainage is due to too much of an immune response rather than too little, I’m going to suggest some supplements that support a healthy immune system and reduce inflammation naturally. No boosting or building. So here’s my list:

Omega 3 fatty acids—research shows restoring the balance of the anti-inflammatory omega 3s vs. the pro-inflammatory omega 6s may improve certain medical conditions

MSM—a naturally occurring compound that helps fight inflammation

Devil’s Claw, Boswellia, Bromelain, Yucca—all potent inflammation-fighters

Adaptogenic herbs—plants with substances that dial the body back to normal, they strengthen systems compromised by stress and protect against a wide variety of stressful influences

I’m sure you’re already providing excellent supportive nursing care, including hot and/or cold therapy, careful bandaging when appropriate, poulticing to draw out fluid, and non-steroidals such as “bute” to relieve pain and swelling. And as soon as your horses are able, light exercise to stimulate circulation. Antibiotics are controversial and should only be given on the advice of your veterinarians. The only other suggestion I can give you all is to keep your horses and their surroundings as clean and dry as possible, because some cases appear to be associated with a contaminated environment and equipment.