What is a leg sweat? And when would I need to use it?
Leg sweats are used to help injured legs, as the sweating compound will help reduce inflammation. Sweats also bring added heat to an area. If you have a horse with a suspected leg injury, consult your Veterinarian. There are dozens and dozens of possible injuries, and each one with a different protocol. Sweats are also best used on older injuries, as the heat that’s created can create more problems with fresh injuries. Your Veterinarian will be able to give you a detailed plan of action that involves both icing and sweating if necessary. It's usual for a new injury to receive cold therapy, such as icing, initially before switching to a sweat or an ice and sweat combination. Your Veterinarian can give you a specific plan for your horse's condition.
Some horses benefit from both cold (ice) and heat (sweat) therapy. Learn when to use each type here.
Applying a sweat is much like applying poultice, but you should be a little more careful. Here is a basic list of things to do when you are applying a leg sweat to your horse:
- The leg must be clean and dry! This is critical, especially if your sweat contains any amount of DMSO. DMSO is wonderfully horrid, and must be used with extreme caution. Ream more about DMSO here! If you are icing and sweating a leg, the ice is typically done first, then the leg needs to dry, and then you can use a sweat.
- Check for the smallest of scrapes and irritations. Sweats can be irritating, especially so if there’s a wound on your horse’s skin. If your horse has a furry leg, it’s a good idea to clip it so you can examine the leg better and also give the sweat a better chance to work effectively.
It's neon and it stains!
- Use gloves when applying a sweat. Most concoctions will stain! And speaking of concoctions, it’s always best to have your Veterinarian provide you with a sweat that he has mixed, or given you the name of to pick up at the tack shop. Nitrofurazone is a common horse leg sweat, and it’s yellow color will stain your hands and your horse.
- You will paint the sweat solution onto your horse’s leg, a thin layer will be fine. If you goop it on, it will escape out of your wrap! You will typically only want to use the sweat on the lower leg, under wraps.
Raid your pantry for plastic wrap!
- Cover the sweat solution with a layer of plastic wrap to seal in the sweat. This serves to seal in the heat, and also to protect your quilt from the staining potential of the sweat solution.
- Now you can apply a standing bandage and quilt to your horse’s leg. This article has details on how to do this. You may want to use quilts that you wouldn't mind getting stained, just in case.
- Plan on using a leg sweat for no more than 12 hours, unless your Veterinarian has another plan. You will also want to find out how frequently to apply a sweat. Every night, every other night, weekly?
Use quilts to cover the saran wrap, which is holding in the heat of the sweat and preventing everything in the area from becoming stained!
- Remove the bandage and plastic wrap after the prescribed time, and wash the leg. You can usually rinse thoroughly, but you may need to add a tiny amount of mild shampoo. You will also want to use gloves for this process. This is the perfect time to inspect the leg for irritations, worsening inflammation, tenderness, etc. If you have any worries, call your Veterinarian!
What has been your experience with leg sweats?