What are windgalls (wind puffs)?

Wind galls, also known as wind puffs, are soft synovial swellings that develop slightly above and behind the fetlock joint, due to an over-secretion of joint fluid, caused by irritation to the joint surfaces or joint capsule. Wind galls may occur in other joints and tendons but are most commonly found around the fetlocks or on the digital flexor tendon sheath. We investigate how they are caused, diagnosed and treatments available.

Windgalls in Horses | Symptoms, Causes & Treatment | Streamz Global

Windgalls in Horses | Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Diagnosing windgalls

There are two types of windgalls diagnosed by professionals often referred too as ‘Tendinous Windgalls’ and ‘Articular Windgalls’. Generally, windgalls are benign in nature and are regarded as minor damage to the joint, appearing without pain, heat or lameness. A windgall type of swelling appearing below the fetlock or associated with pain, heat or lameness, should be treated with suspicion.

The most commonly occurring type of windgall diagnosed is tendinous windgall and is typically seen in middle-aged horses who have had a buss and active life. Often the swelling is actually the membrane that lines the sheath becoming thicker as opposed to a build-up of fluid around the joint. Tendinous Windgalls are unlikely to cause pain or lameness and in most cases, the animal intermittently experiences the issue.

Articular windgalls often occur in horses who have been diagnosed with the degenerative joint disease (DJD) or similar issues involving the joints within the legs. Articular windgalls are found in numerous horses who display no symptoms of lameness and are firm swollen protrusions in the middle of the cannon bone or the suspensory ligament. Articular windgalls are common in show jumping and barrel racing horses due to the regular impact on the joints when jumping and twisting around barrels.

In the same way that bog spavin can be a symptom of degenerative joint disease in the hock joint, windgalls can be an indication of an underlying problem.

Although rarely creating visible pain, it is of significant importance to dressage riders, 3-day Eventers and show horses and ponies that their legs are in the best condition possible.

Symptoms of windgalls in Horses

There are a few symptoms to look out for to help diagnose windgalls in horses and understanding the best form of treatment. Diagnosing windgalls is relatively straight forward and in most cases does not require a veterinary examination. The first symptom often found is swelling around the fetlock joint and the tendons themselves. They will often seem larger (swollen) but not be sore to touch. More serious cases may create a rigid swelling around the sheath. In some cases your horse will indicate an issue through changes in their performance. Lameness from windgalls is extremely rare and if this is found then it will often indicate a more significant underlying issue in the horses hoof.

What are the main causes of windgalls?

Windgalls in horses are due to irritation to the surfaces of the joints and are often found in more active horses. In some scenarios it is thought that windgalls are present due to excess fluid in the tendon sheath but the following factors are the most commonly reported contributions to the condition: – Bad conformation. – Overworking the horse. – Extensive activity/exercise on hard surfaces. – Improper trimming/farrier work. – A tear to the ligament, tendon or joint capsule. – An injury to the cartilage within the joint.



Traditional used treatments for windgalls

There remains no scientifically proven cure for windgalls.

If your horse experiences windgalls it is advised that you consult with your veterinarian to establish a treatment plan including exercise and diet. Often, modifying your horse’s training or work can help to reduce the irritation and inflammation that leads to the onset of windgalls.

It is important to note that avoiding heat is of significant importance. In this regard, traditional magnetic devices creating a pulse should not be used. Many natural treatments include compresses and applications which are generally difficult to manage and time-consuming to apply. Anti-inflammatory medications or NSAIDS are widely used to help reduce inflammation along with carefully controlled diets and supplements.

Focal ultrasound therapy is also sometimes administered and Injections of hyaluronic acid may be considered as this can help normalise the environment of the tendon sheath.

Once windgalls occur, they are likely to come back when activity or exercise is again increased.

It is widely accepted within the equine community that due to windgalls being mostly cosmetic in most circumstances avoiding invasive therapy is morally correct. The requirement to find a natural solution to this commonly diagnosed issue is of significant interest.

Along with providing complimentary devices many horse owners who have a horse with windgalls ensure that the horse is shooed correctly. They must ensure the horse is not being over worked or working on too hard surfaces.