Speaking Equine, Vol. 1, Issue 4

First Aid Kit and Utilization

Being prepared includes making sure you have the item necessary to take care of your horse in an emergency.

Caution! Make sure that you know the safe way to handle and utilize all items in your first aid kit. Your veterinarian can help you with specific items to meet your special conditions and help you learn to safely provide first aid to your horse.

Bandage Materials (Keep in zip lock storage bags to keep material sterile and clean

  • Cotton gauze wraps, three or four inches wide. The cotton squares are used for cleaning cuts, scrapes, for packing bleeding cuts or as pressure underneath a surface wrap.
  • Non-stick gauze pads (many sizes). Good to put on first so the forming scab is not pulled off when the bandage is undone.
  • Diapers/sanitary napkins. Great for cuts and injuries that tend to have a lot of drainage because they wick fluid from the surface of the wound. They are inexpensive and can be used for a quick, effective bandage.
  • Adhesive wrap and adhesive tape.
  • Cotton sheet leg wraps. A very thin cotton wrap that provide support and cushion when used as the first layer of a standard leg wrap. Usually, four sheets are rolled together and applied to the leg, and then a tighter gauze or elastic wrap is applied.
  • Flannel wraps. Thick cushion wraps with hook and loop closures can replace the thin cotton sheets and provide support under a leg wrap. This is best if you are transporting your horse.
  • Vet wrap, Coflex, Flexus, or Elasticon. These products are usually the last layer of a leg wrap and provide support and compression. Elasticon is the strongest and works well holding bandages in place or closing the tops and bottoms of leg wraps to keep debris out. Ask your veterinarian about the correct way to wrap a leg.
  • Hand and bath towels. When cleaning wounds, you'll need to be able to clean yourself and your horse. Occasionally large wounds will need bath towels for pressure and support until veterinary help arrives.
  • Duct tape. Duct tape is great for foot wraps; it's inexpensive, water-resistant and can be molded to fit the hoof. Putting duct tape over a bandage can help it withstand a horse's exuberance in turnout, and make the bandage more waterproof.
  • A box of disposable Latex gloves.

Tool Kit

  • Thermometer. (Helpful hint: Attach fishing line to the end of the thermometer with a clothespin or alligator clip to the other end of the fishing line. Clip to horse¡¦s tail.)
  • Stethoscope. These are inexpensive and can be used to determine intestinal sounds in cases of colic. Ask your vet to explain what to listen for.
  • Scissors. A wide blunt end pair and a small sharp pair for suture removal.
  • Forceps. These can be purchased through a veterinarian and used to remove objects from cuts or punctures. Forceps and Hemostats should be clean and sterilized after every use.
  • Hemostats. A small adjustable clamp like instrument used to remove or clamp objects.
  • Tweezers.
  • 2 Flashlights. A large beam light, a small penlight and spare batteries.
  • Twitch. Sometimes you need to restrain a horse in order to treat him.
  • Pliers and wire cutters. Many times cuts or punctures involve fence or other wire items. A fencer's tool that combines a wire cutter, hammer and pliers is best.
  • Horse blanket. There are situations, such as shock and tying up, where horses may need a blanket, even in hot weather.
  • Hoof pick.
  • Clinch cutter and shoe puller. Every horse owner should learn the proper way to remove a shoe. Proper and early removal of a loose or twisted shoe will protect the hoof wall. Ask your farrier or veterinarian for assistance in learning this process.
  • Permanent Marker. If your horse steps on a nail and you remove it, be sure to mark the exact spot with a marker so that the vet can assess the extent of the damage.

Cleaning and Protecting

  • Wound scrub. Iodine, Peroxide, Rubbing alcohol, Betadine or Nolvasan: Ask your veterinarian as to which products are best. Iodine alone is usually fine. Any of these solutions can be used to clean and disinfect a wound. If a veterinarian is coming, do NOT use any of these products; leave the wound as is. If you really need to clean it a little, flush it with a saline solution.
  • Wound ointment and antiseptic solution.
  • Fly and insect repellents. You need a fly repelling ointment or spray that is safe for use around wounds. Flies are attracted to blood, and the wound needs to be kept clean and pest-free.
  • Liniment: You might use liniment when a horse has over-exerted himself or just been worked hard. Liniment can be useful if, say, a horse slips in the pasture and you are worried about stressed muscles.
  • Isopropyl alcohol.
  • Saline Solution: Water with a little salt in it. This is ideal for flushing (cleaning by pouring liquid over) a wound.
  • Soaking boot: If your horse has a wound in his hoof or on the coronet band, a soaking boot can be used to soak the hoof in Epsom salts or iodine, to hold medication in, or to keep the wound clean in turnout. If you do not want to buy a boot made specifically for this purpose, you can make a useable "boot" with a disposable diaper wrapped on with duct tape.
  • Epsom salts: Good for soaking hoof injuries, like abscesses.

Specialty Items

  • Cold packs. Keep frozen in or close to the barn. This can be as high-tech as refrigerated equine boots, or as simple as a bag of frozen peas, or other small cut frozen vegetables. The semi-thawed frozen vegetable bag conforms to the sore leg and can be held in place with gauze and vet wrap. The more expensive items come with straps and wraps. Treatment with cold is the first and most important thing you can do to help a strain or sprain. Application of cold can also slow bleeding and protect damaged tissue.
  • Splint material. You can make your own with a 1 to 2 foot long PVC pipe, cut and split lengthwise. This is used on the top of a leg wrap to support a leg in the event of severe tendon strain or a fracture. Don't try this for the first time in an emergency situation - practice putting the PVC splint on a quiet, healthy horse first, and have your veterinarian help you.
  • Poultice. There are a number of excellent poultices available through your veterinarian or farm supply store. Poultices help reduce leg swelling.
  • Plastic or brown paper wrap. Used as a wrap over a leg poultice.
  • Electrolytes. Many commercial products are available that can be added to the food or water or given directly by mouth. These can be used in extreme heat or humidity and in medical conditions such as shock and colic.

Caution! Make sure that you know the safe way to handle all items in your first aid kit. Your veterinarian can help you learn how to safely provide first aid to your horse.

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