Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Wound to Head or Face

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 you are concerned by the size and severity of the wound.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.

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

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.

In the equine head, the bone of the skull lies right under the skin. Large, air-filled sinus compartments fill the front part of the skull, while the brain rests within the rear of the skull, between the ears. The skin of the face has a rich blood supply, meaning that simple wounds tend to heal rapidly and well. Simple wounds to the face that do not involve bone and do not create a flap of loose tissues may not require much treatment, if any.

When major trauma accompanies a head wound, there is a concern of brain injury, damaged bone or even damaged teeth. When wounds damage bone, there is a possibility of chronic bone or sinus infection.

Head and face injuries are common in horses and the wounds that result can be very dramatic but usually heal well. Signs that there was significant concussion associated with the injury could include bleeding from the nose, eyes or mouth. Injuries that involve the brain often cause change in behavior or other signs related to the nervous system, including changes in gait, depressed attitude, seizures, or changes in eye position, among many others. Brain trauma is relatively rare.


Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the horse’s general attitude and appetite, rectal temperature, and ability to walk normally. Take a photo of the wound and share it with your vet. Look for displaced flaps of tissue that will need to be pulled back into place for a cosmetic repair.


Your vet evaluates every head wound individually in order to determine the treatment options. We determine the involvement of other structures, like the sinuses. Sometimes we need other diagnostics, like x-ray to help determine bone involvement. Depending on the configuration of the wound and other factors, your vet will discuss treatment options which include repair or allowing the wound to heal as an open wound.

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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