Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder

Skin Swellings




A variety of diseases and conditions can cause skin swellings in a range of anatomical locations. The following (Table 4.5) lists the main swellings occurring in the export process.

Table 4.5: Causes of skin swellings in export livestock

Type of swelling Anatomical location and cause


Abdomen and chest from various types of skin tumours; regional lymph nodes and body skin from lymphosarcoma.


Mandible and maxilla from lumpy jaw; lower legs following trauma.


Side of neck from vaccination.


Pelvic prominences from trauma; penis and prepuce from ruptured penis.


Ventral abdomen from trauma.


Submandibular oedema from: woody tongue, blocked salivary duct and heart failure; brisket oedema from heart failure due to traumatic reticulopericarditis, valvular endocarditis, ionophore (i.e. monensin) poisoning.


Ventral abdomen and prepuce from urine leakage following urethral obstruction then rupture.


Over rump, back and shoulder from blackleg; over back and shoulder from sucking wounds of the armpit.

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Swellings may be difficult to detect unless seen in profile in good lighting. The cause of most swellings may be differentiated by the location, extent, size, shape, surface, smell, contour and content. Inserting a needle or cutting into a swelling to determine its contents should be avoided in the export process because of the risk of iatrogenic infection.


Choice of treatment will depend on accurate diagnosis.


A good screening system will detect problems during selection, thereby preventing entry into the export process. Vaccination hygiene, low stress animal handling, and vaccination against blackleg, which are routine in the export process, should contribute to lowering prevalence. Awareness of the types of problems that may arise and having systems for early detection, accurate diagnosis, and effective treatment are important, particularly at sea.