Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Assess a Suture Line or Surgical Site

In some cases, your vet may ask you to monitor a suture line or surgical site on your horse. The outcome of the case is sometimes greatly dependent upon your ability to care for your horse at home and communicate clearly with your vet.

Always start with an assessment of your horse’s general health. In most cases, a horse that has been sent home after surgery should have a good appetite and attitude. They should be eating, drinking, urinating and passing manure.

Procedure

Halter your horse. With an assistant at the head of your horse, stand on left side of your horse at their flank and facing toward their rear end. Make contact with your horse and look at the suture line and assess for swelling.

Do you notice any draining or weeping from the line? Is the area red or inflamed? Are the sutures or staples holding together well or gapping over part of the line? Gently press along the suture line with your clean fingertips. Does your horse respond in pain? Does the pressure from your fingertips cause drainage from the line? Do the skin edges move with respect to one another, or does the line seem "sealed"?

Assess the suture line in broad daylight or use a good strong headlight so that you can can see the suture line well, especially if the incision is on the underside of your horse.

Clean the suture line or surgical site only if directed by your vet. The use of harsh antiseptics and cleaners is usually not needed. If you do clean the suture line, use a paper towel moist in very dilute antiseptic and gently dab the line. Never aggressively scrub a suture line. If it is sealed, it is protecting itself from the outside elements and could be disrupted if you scrub it too hard. If it is not sealed, aggressive scrubbing may disrupt it further.

Tips for safety & Success

If you have questions about the suture line, the best way to communicate your concerns is to take photos of it and send them to your vet for discussion. Take photos of the line in profile and straight on in good consistent lighting conditions.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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