What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Wound to Armpit or Groin


Within the armpit and groin run very large vessels and nerves. Wounds to either these areas are fairly common in horses, and range greatly in severity. Wounds here are often large and deep, and usually happen when a horse rears or jumps and comes down on an upright rigid post.

Another cause of this injury is a gore wound from a bull (I actually treated a horse that had been gored in the armpit by a bull elk). In some cases, there is foreign material such as wood splinters still deeply embedded in the wound. This can cause the wound to continue to drain and not heal.

The most important factor is the location and depth of the wound and the structures involved. These injuries can be life-threatening if they involve an important internal organ or structure. However, this area has an amazing ability to heal with time and basic nursing care.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If there is excessive bleeding.
    • If the wound is large or causing the horse distress.
    • If lameness is noticeable at the walk.
    • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.

your role


What To Do

If you notice a wound to this area, keep the horse calm and perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to rectal temperature and heart rate. Walk the horse forward to see whether they can move the limb forward and bear weight fully.

Monitor the area around the wound. Wounds to this area tend to form a one way valve that sucks air into the tissues. The air can spread into the surrounding regions under the skin, giving the horse an inflated appearance (subcutaneous emphysema). In most cases it is not harmful but can become severe with some wounds if a horse moves excessively.

What Not To Do

Do not apply antibiotic products to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet monitors or stabilizes your horse's overall systemic health and may use radiography, ultrasound or exploratory surgery to further clarify the extent of the damage. They may remove any foreign material and trim away (debride) any badly damaged tissue. The better your horse's physical exam findings, the less likely that important organs are involved.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What do you think caused the injury?
  • Is the horse limping or lame?
  • Is there much bleeding?
  • When was the horse last given a tetanus vaccination?
  • Is there much swelling in the area?
  • If the horse is lame, how lame?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
Less Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP