Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Clean & Treat Fresh Wound

With a new wound, you have an opportunity to start the healing process right. The key is early communication with your vet. Every wound is different and requires a different approach to management. A small wound on a limb can be life threatening, while a large wound may heal easily without a scar.

As mentioned elsewhere, the severity of a wound depends on the anatomic structures that are involved. Your vet knows how to manage specific wounds and can differentiate between those that require special care, and those that don’t. Contact your vet immediately to ensure the best care for your horse.

Procedure

Halter the horse. Having a skilled helper at the head of the horse may make this easier. Make contact at the shoulder and then slide your hand down along the horse toward the wound.

Touch the area around the wound and test your horse's response before you begin cleaning or treating. Teach the horse that allowing you to touch and work with the wound is the easy and right thing, and that withdrawal means restraint.

First wet the area with a moist paper towel. Next, using antiseptic soap and gauze or a paper towel, gently scrub the debris off the wound. Next, rinse well with dilute antiseptic. Moderate fluid pressure (hand sprayer for smaller wounds or hose for larger ones) is an excellent way to clean wounds.

Rinse well with liberal water, saline or dilute disinfectants. Dry with dabbing action of a clean paper towel. Clip the wound if necessary. Avoid hard scrubbing. The goal is to remove debris and dead tissue from the wound without damaging healing tissues. Cleaning and treatment may be followed by application of a bandage and/or ointment per your vet's suggestion.

Tips for safety & Success

Before you decide to treat a wound yourself, send a photo of it to your vet. They can tell you whether or not the wound should be repaired or will require special consideration.

Some topical ointments and creams are damaging to healing and need to be avoided if the wound will be sutured. Wear latex exam gloves to reduce further contamination of the wound.

Only use dilute disinfectants. Strong disinfectants can further damage wounds and actually increase the likelihood of infection. Use water or fluid pressure with a hand sprayer rather than hard scrubbing to clean. This is the best method to remove bacteria and debris without damaging the wound.

Do not use cotton balls or pads to clean the wound because they break down easily and leave fibers in the wound potentially causing further contamination and necessitating additional clean up.

New wounds are often painful. Good horsemanship is necessary to get the horse to allow you to clean the wound. Do not struggle to clean a wound if it appears to cause your horse excess stress or pain. If this is the case, your vet may sedate or use local anesthetic to numb the injured area before cleaning.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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