Speaking Equine, Vol. 1, Issue 4

Emergency Wound Care

Among the most common emergencies are cuts and lacerations, proper care is important.
It’s important you stay calm when confronted with an open wound. The sight of an open wound and blood coming from your horse may be unsettling, but do not let it unnerve you. The initial steps you take can prevent further damage, speed healing, and even save your horse’s life. How you proceed will depend on the individual circumstances, and you must exercise good judgment. The following steps should be viewed as guidelines:

  1. Catch and calm the horse to prevent further injury. If possible, move the horse to a stall or other familiar surroundings without causing distress or further injury to the horse. Providing hay or grain can also be a good distraction.
  2. Get help before attempting to treat or evaluate a wound. It can be difficult and very dangerous to try to inspect or clean the wound without someone to hold the horse. You cannot help your horse if you are seriously injured yourself.
  3. Evaluate the location, depth, and severity of the wound. Call your veterinarian if your horse is in need of emergency care.

    Call your veterinarian if:

    • There appears to be excessive bleeding.
    • The entire skin thickness has been penetrated.
    • The wound occurs near or over a joint.
    • Any structures underlying the skin are visible.
    • A puncture has occurred.
    • A severe wound has occurred in the lower leg at or below knee or hock level.
    • The wound is contaminated.
    • The eye is injured.

  5. Consult with your veterinarian regarding a recommendation before you attempt to clean the wound or remove debris or penetrating objects, as you may precipitate uncontrollable bleeding or do further damage to the wound. If possible, large penetrating objects should be stabilized to avoid further injury. Don't put anything on the wound except a compress or cold water.
  6. Stop the bleeding by covering the wound with a sterile, absorbent pad (not cotton), applying firm, steady, even pressure to the wound.
  7. Do not medicate or tranquilize the horse unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. If the horse has suffered severe blood loss or shock, the administration of certain drugs can be life-threatening.
  8. If the eye is injured, do not attempt to treat. Wait for your veterinarian.
  9. If a horse steps on a nail or other sharp object and it remains embedded in the hoof, first clean the hoof. Consult with your veterinarian regarding a recommendation before you remove the sharp object. It may be best to stabilize the hoof by wrapping material around the sharp object, leaving it in place until the vet arrives. If your veterinarian advises, carefully remove the object to prevent the horse from stepping on it and driving it deeper into the hoof cavity. As you remove it, be sure to mark the exact point and depth of entry with tape and/or a marker so the veterinarian can assess the extent of damage. Apply antiseptic to the wound, and wrap to prevent additional contamination.
  10. Horses being treated for lacerations or puncture wounds require a tetanus booster.

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