In order to support and assist the natural healing process, it is important for horse owners to have a general understanding of the stages of wound healing.
Before you start to clean or treat a wound, consider its stage of healing. During the early stages, be careful not to disrupt the clot that has formed. When the wound is “demarcating” (meaning determining what will live and what will die), you can gently remove obviously dead tissue and foreign material.
During the repair phases, do not to disrupt fragile healing elements, but identify and remove impediments to healing. Drainage from the wound is the body’s natural response to infection, as the draining fluid contains bacteria and other foreign materials.
Ideally, an assistant is at the head of the horse standing on the same side of the horse as you are. Remove the bandage and assess the wound. Identify impediments to wound healing (debris or dead tissue), and any drainage.
Gently cleans the wound, wipe away any drainage and remove major debris with gauze and antiseptic scrub. Rinse the wound to remove remnants of debris. Pressurized spray of saline wound wash from a spray bottles is a good way to do this.
Saline wound wash is the most tissue-friendly fluid for cleaning wounds. Antiseptic solutions can also be used, but should be very dilute. The most important aspect of washing a wound is not the solution used, but the mechanical removal of debris and dead tissues. Use very dilute chlorhexidine or povidone iodine solutions. Add 1:20 or 1:40 of these solutions to water or saline in a hand sprayer. Apply the spray with as much pressure as you can generate with your hand.
Dab the wound bed gently with a dry paper towel. Then carefully dry the surrounding area but do not drag hair and debris back to the wound. Apply the appropriate dressing per your vet’s recommendation, and re-bandage the wound.
Tips for safety & Success
If the wound does not appear to be healing properly, it is growing larger, developing proud flesh, more painful or reddening, taking a long time to heal, breaking open due to flexion around the injury, or draining significant amounts of pus or blood, contact your vet.
It may be infected and/or require additional veterinary assessment or treatment.