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Wound to Face or Head with Obvious Broken Bone, Fracture Involved

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

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

    Wounds to the head accompanied by broken bone are relatively common in horses because of the speed and force with which horses collide with objects. A fractured skull usually does not mean brain injury. A horse’s brain case is relatively small and inaccessible compared to the skull as a whole. Even severe head wounds usually do not involve the brain.

    Injuries involving the large, air-filled, bone encased sinuses are common though. Head wounds accompanied by fracture can result in infection of the sinuses or bone of the skull (osteomyelitis). Bone or sinus infection can take weeks to become evident and can cause chronic wound drainage, swelling of the head, or chronic nasal discharge. For this reason, proper short term management is important.

    Horses with brain damage may not be able to rise or even roll onto their chest. Others with less extensive injury may be depressed or be unstable on their feet or show other signs. But most horses with even severe head wounds and obvious fracture act surprisingly normal considering the apparent severity of their injuries.


    If possible and safe to do so, assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to their eyes and ability to balance and walk forward. Take a photo of the injury and send it to your vet, and contact your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.


    Your vet will determine the severity of the injury. Radiographs, CT scan and ultrasound may provide additional information about the extent of fracture. Many head wounds can be repaired surgically and usually heal surprisingly well. In many cases, fragments of bone are removed. Less commonly, bone may be repaired using plates, screws or wires.

    What Not To Do

    Do not apply antibiotic products to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet.

    Do not handle a horse that is wobbly or appears unsteady.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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