Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Control Bleeding on Lower Limb with Pressure Bandage

Being able to calmly, quickly and confidently stop or slow bleeding (hemorrhage), on the equine lower limb is a very important skill in an emergency. With focused pressure, you can usually slow or stop outpouring of blood from a lacerated vessel.

Horses can lose gallons of blood before being in danger of shock. In most cases of severe hemorrhage from the lower limb, a horse’s blood pressure will drop enough that bleeding stops before the horse dies of blood loss. This is especially true of bleeding from the lower limbs where the vessels are smaller.

Procedure

Your horse is bleeding severely from a specific site on the limb. First, try to determine precisely where the blood is coming from. Test your hunch by pressing your finger or several fingertips directly onto the bleeding area and maintaining pressure there. Are you able to stop or slow the bleeding?

If not, hold gauze with pressure on the site, remove it and try to visualize specifically where the bleeding is coming from. Again, try to put your fingertip on the source. This will give you an idea of what it will take to stop the bleeding.

Once you feel like you know where you need to apply pressure, fold over a 1 inch thick wad of gauze 4x4 squares and place it directly on top of the site. Using Elastikon or Vetrap™, wrap the wound tightly forcing the gauze into it.

If blood seeps through the bandage apply a second layer directly on top, with another 2 inches of gauze. This tight bandage can be safely left on your horse for several hours, until your vet can assess the injury. If that is not possible, try to gently remove it in several hours.

If it starts bleeding again, you will need to replace it. A horse can slowly walk several miles back to a trailer with a properly applied pressure bandage on the lower limb.

Tips for safety & Success

Successful application of this skill is all about focused pressure. Use a headlight to help you visualize the bleeding point. Keep your horse as tranquil as possible. Be calm and move quickly but not frantically.

Move your horse to an area that you think will make them calm, such as their stall. If you are out on the trail or away from the stable, encourage your horse to stand quietly as you work by keeping a buddy horse close by.

Do not attempt to stop bleeding by using a tourniquet (a tight wrap higher up the limb). Focus all the pressure directly on top of the bleeding area.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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