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Subcutaneous Pythiosis in a Horse

.A 10 year-old warmblood gelding presented to PHD veterinary services for the complaint of a swollen left front fetlock that was associated with a chronic draining wound. The recent history included a biopsy of the wound and diagnosis of pythiosis per histopathology. The gelding was treated with a single dose of a systemic pythiosis vaccine. In Figures 1 and 2 the yellow arrows are pointing to the firm swelling that is directly on the backside (palmar aspect) of the fetlock joint. In addition, the red arrow in Figure 2 corresponds to the chronic draining wound. The gelding was sensitive to direct pressure over the swelling, passive flexion of the fetlock and was mildly lame at the trot.

An ultrasound exam was performed of the area in question. The firm swelling consisted of multiple fluid filled structures along with focal areas of apparent mineralization. The structure appeared embedded within the distal annular ligament; however the superficial flexor tendon (SDF) and the deep digital flexor tendon (DDF) appeared to be normal. In Figure 3 the yellow arrows are highlighting the fluid filled structures. This case is a very unusual presentation for pythiosis in a horse. The majority of cases present with an external lesion as seen in Figure 4. As external lesions there are several treatment options which involve aggressive surgical de-bulking and various topical medications. The pathogen responsible for this condition is found in stagnant water and invades superficial abrasions that might be present any where on the horse. Hence the lower limbs are most commonly affected but it has been diagnosed in the naso-pharynx and GI track of horses.

Because of the complicated location of the lesion in this horse, we elected to treat with a potent anti-fungal medication known as Amphotericin B. The medication was administered through a vein in the lower limb using regional limb perfusion. This technique maximizes the local perfusion of the soft tissues with the medication and minimizes the systemic effect of the medication. 

The lesion was re-evaluated 30 days after the initial treatment and there was approximately 40-50% reduction in size of the lesion. However, after 60 days, the lesion appeared to resume growth and a second treatment with Amphotericin B was recently administered. In addition, the gelding as received 2 vaccines against the pythiosis and will likely receive another. Because of the location, surgery is not an option for this horse hence the systemic therapy is our best option at this point. The case is on -going and the blog will be updated as we go!!

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