Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Wound is Very Slow Healing or Not Healing

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

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

    Non-healing or slow healing wounds are usually infected or contain foreign material such as wood or dirt, dead or sick tissue, or dead bone (sequestrum).

    Proud flesh (excessive granulation tissue) is both a sign and a cause of poor healing. It is the body’s attempt at “plugging the hole”. When above the level of the skin, it can stop the progress of further healing by blocking the passage of skin cells migrating in from the sides of a wound (the process called epithelialization).

    Wounds may actually seem to enlarge for the first week or so after they occur. This is normal during this early stage of wound healing, especially in situations in which there has been excessive tissue damage to the wound edges. The body liquifies the damaged tissue to allow healthy tissue to bridge the defect. Slow or non-healing wounds are most commonly found on the lower limb, particularly in high motion areas such as the fetlock and hock, and overlying the flexor tendons.


    Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Pay particular attention to the degree of swelling around the wound, the rectal temperature, general attitude and appetite and the presence or absence of lameness. Assess the wound. If it appears swollen or draining, you notice much smell, or if your horse is also lame or if they have a fever, contact your vet immediately. You may save yourself months of healing time and preserve superior function and appearance if you involve your vet early in wound assessment and care.


    Your vet may approach a non-healing wound first by trying to determine the reason it is not healing (excessive motion, bacterial infection, foreign material, etc.). Whatever the cause, it must be identified and treated before the wound can be expected to heal. Beyond physical exam, your vet uses a variety of diagnostics to gather more information about the wound and the factors slowing healing.

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

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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