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Equine Health Resource

Wound or Puncture Smells

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

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

    Properly healing wounds generally do not generate much odor. Wounds that have foreign or dead material (and especially dead bone) within them tend to have strong and objectionable odor. Wounds under bandages also can have a variety of pungent odors, especially when left on for long periods.

    The smell we notice indicates bacterial growth. In some cases, the presence of odor does not signal a problem. In other cases, it indicates bacterial infection that needs to be treated to allow wound healing to progress.


    You should consult with your vet if you notice odor coming from a wound. Look for swelling, lameness, increased drainage, reddening of surrounding skin or soreness to pressure on or around the wound. An obvious smell to a wound is not cause for panic, but is a warning sign that there may be something wrong that needs to be treated- maybe a bacterial infection, foreign material or dead tissue within the wound.

    For wounds under a bandage: Some changes you make might in wound treatment decrease wound bacterial numbers. Consider leaving the wound un-bandaged and open to the air for a time. Spraying the wound with pressurized water, saline, or dilute antiseptics can help reduce bacterial numbers. Applying certain antibacterial wound creams under the guidance of your vet may also help.


    Your vet assesses the wound visually and by the appearance and feel of the surrounding area. They consider nearby anatomic structures that may be involved. They use probing of the wounds and various imaging like x-ray and ultrasound to rule out infected material or tissue within the wound.

    Wound odors of different types provide us additional information about wound healing. Certain smells indicate the presence of certain types of bacteria . Depending upon a variety of factors, your vet may determine that the treatment plan needs to be modified or that further diagnostics may need to be run.

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

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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