Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Wound to Upper Limb or Leg, Generally

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 want the wound repaired cosmetically, no matter the cost.
  • If you are concerned by the size and severity of the wound.
  • If severe and obvious lameness is visible at the walk.
  • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.

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

  • Even if the horse does not appear to be lame to you.
  • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.

Wounds to the equine upper limbs are common, often resulting from fence (wire) related injuries and kicks from other horses. Compared to lower limb injuries, there is less chance that joints or tendon sheaths are involved, so in most cases these wounds are generally less of a concern.

Exceptions to this general rule include wounds to the rear of the limb (hamstring) area may cause injury to the muscle here, resulting in a gait deficit called a fibrotic myopathy. The inside (medial part) of the upper limb is not protected by heavy muscle mass. Injuries to this area can damage major nerves and vessels and can potentially cause severe bleeding and lameness. The stifle joint can be penetrated by a wound, leading to life-threatening infection. In the forelimbs, wounds involving the carpus (knee) are fairly common and can be very serious.

Wounds to the upper limb usually heal well left open with little intervention and with few long-term complications. Mostly, the upper limb has a good blood supply, and plenty of tissue that contracts down in healing to close the wound. Still for the best cosmetic outcome, and to decrease healing time, you may choose to have your vet repair the wound.

WHAT TO DO

If an upper limb wound is bleeding heavily, use direct pressure to stop or control the bleeding. In cases in which a horse is very lame, a wound to the upper limb may be accompanied by a fracture.

It is best to contact your vet if your horse sustains a wound to this area. Be very cautious of wounds that are near joints. Take a photo and send it to your vet for discussion.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will help you decide whether or not to leave an upper limb wound open or have it repaired, and determine whether any other special treatment is indicated.

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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