Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Wound to Armpit or Groin

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If there is excessive bleeding.
  • If the wound is large or causing the horse distress.
  • If lameness is noticeable at the walk.
  • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.

Within the armpit and groin run very large vessels and nerves. Wounds to either these areas are fairly common in horses, and range greatly in severity. Wounds here are often large and deep, and usually happen when a horse rears or jumps and comes down on an upright rigid post.

Another cause of this injury is a gore wound from a bull (I actually treated a horse that had been gored in the armpit by a bull elk). In some cases, there is foreign material such as wood splinters still deeply embedded in the wound. This can cause the wound to continue to drain and not heal.

The most important factor is the location and depth of the wound and the structures involved. These injuries can be life-threatening if they involve an important internal organ or structure. However, this area has an amazing ability to heal with time and basic nursing care.

WHAT TO DO

If you notice a wound to this area, keep the horse calm and perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature and heart rate. Walk the horse forward to see whether they can move the limb forward and bear weight fully.

Monitor the area around the wound. Wounds to this area tend to form a one way valve that sucks air into the tissues. The air can spread into the surrounding regions under the skin, giving the horse an inflated appearance (subcutaneous emphysema). In most cases it is not harmful but can become severe with some wounds if a horse moves excessively.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet monitors or stabilizes your horse’s overall systemic health and may use radiography, ultrasound or exploratory surgery to further clarify the extent of the damage. They may remove any foreign material and trim away (debride) any badly damaged tissue. The better your horse’s physical exam findings, the less likely that important organs are involved.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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