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Wound management in horses

Guest Author - Susan Hopf

“If you have horses you have problems” – cannot remember who said this but it is absolutely true. Horses by their very nature are prone to accidents – couple that with our system of confining them and it amounts to double trouble.

One’s riding plans can come to a screeching halt when you discover a wound of some sort on your horse but correct management can save both you and your horse much grief. There are many different types of wounds but we will deal with those that do not need Veterinary intervention.

Scrapes, bites, or brush burns account for most superficial wound types. If they are only into the top-most layers of the dermis (skin) it is usually safe to self-minister. Any sort of puncture wounds, wounds with flaps or those that involve any underlying tissue should be attended to by a Vet. Also any insult to the horse’s dermal layers that involves a large area may be better attended to by the professionals.

Finding a superficial wound requires some basic care. First order of business is cleansing. Saline, either procured from your vet or from the drug store, is the least damaging fluid with which to clean any wound. It is ph balanced and will not sting or create any tissue reaction. A thorough flush of the wound with a very liberal amount of saline will generally be enough. Adding iodine or Nolvasan is not necessary and may in fact cause more harm than good.

Once clean, examine the wound thoroughly and ensure that it is truly superficial. Often you may find a flap or a puncture once the dirt and debris is cleared away – if so it is then time for the vet. If all still appears superficial the next decision is to wrap or not. Unless the horse will repeatedly bump or re-scrape the wound and/or your turnout area is muddy enough to coat the wound in filth it is usually best not to wrap – especially if you are not familiar with proper leg wrapping techniques – a badly wrapped leg can cause a number of issues which may prove to be worse than the wound itself. If you decide that wrapping is necessary and you do not have any experience with wrapping a leg please find help even if that means a call to your veterinarian.

Regardless of whether or not the wound can be left uncovered it will be necessary to clean it daily and apply some sort of wound cream. The wound cream should at first be of the anti-bacterial sort. Once the wound has begun to heal it then becomes necessary to keep the area soft – this will help minimize scarring. There are many wound creams available and what you choose matters not as long as the product is approved for horses. Many horse people have their favorites so ask around for some suggestions or ask your vet.

Small wounds should heal in a matter of days to weeks. If the area is large but superficial you must ensure that proud flesh does not start to form. This is a granular formation of an unhealthy healing process and can become very invasive. There are over the counter products that will help keep this granulation tissue from taking hold however if you are not successful and this unhealthy tissue begins to take over the healing it is definitely time for a call to your vet. If at any time during the healing process you are unsure of whether or not the progress is stalled, abnormal in appearance or the area surrounding the wound becomes swollen and hot it is also time for the vet to intervene.

Common sense, time and a little TLC is usually all one needs to help heal any equine booboo – that and a keen eye to ensure that all is going well.
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Content copyright © 2013 by Susan Hopf. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Susan Hopf. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kim Wende for details.

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