Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Abrasion or Scrape on 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 think your horse may have sustained a fracture or other severe injury.
  • If you notice apparent wobbliness or weakness, in addition to this sign.
  • 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.

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

  • If you notice significant swelling or pain at the site.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

Superficial abrasions or scrapes to the head or face commonly occur when horses reach through a fence and pull back, hit their head on a trailer ceiling, or are injured by another horse. Generally these wounds only involve the loss of hair and skin with minimal involvement of underlying bone or other structures.

Anything that penetrates completely through the skin may be considered a wound or laceration. That said, a horse that suffers severe impact to the head may only have a superficial abrasion but could have brain injury and swellingm or sinus fracture. Keep in mind that mysterious abrasions to the head or face could indicate that the horse was cast or was experiencing abdominal pain (colic) and suffered trauma while down.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to appetite and attitude. Gently press the affected area, taking note of pain and swelling. Determine whether your horse walks normally and is able to move their neck freely to both sides, up and down.

If the abrasion happened in the trailer, carefully assess the skin under the forelock and around the base of the ears. If your horse’s demeanor and movement are normal, and there are no open wounds or significant swellings, you may be able to manage this on your own.

However, if your horse is exhibiting any other signs of illness and abnormality or there is significant swelling, contact your vet with your findings and concerns. If the injury is recent, you may treat it yourself with cold therapy, and ice pack.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will determine the severity of the injury. They will assess the horse’s overall health, carefully assess the injured area. They may perform a neurologic exam if the horse appears to be suffering from neurologic problems. X-ray and other imaging might be used if fracture was suspected.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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