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


Wound is Coming Apart, Reopening after Sutured


Wounds that have been repaired by a vet sometimes come apart (the medical term is dehiscence) later. This is obviously a very disappointing development, after the expense and effort was made to repair the wound in the first place. Some wounds, by their very nature, are at much greater risk of dehiscence than others. Wounds in heavily muscled areas and those low on the limb are at greatest risk. Wounds repaired under tension often dehisce.

It is up to your vet to discuss the costs and benefits of suturing any wound. Not every wound should be sutured. By choosing appropriate wounds to suture in the first place, wound breakdown can often be avoided. On the other hand, there are simply cases in which everything is done perfectly, and the wound breaks down anyway.

Generally, dehiscence of a sutured wound is not a veterinary emergency. In most cases, it is not possible for vets to re-suture a wound immediately anyway. The wound must reach a different stage of healing in order for there to be another opportunity to repair it again. Your vet will instruct you as to how your care of the wound will differ now that the suture line has failed. They may want to see the horse, remove the sutures and discuss other treatment options with you.

Your vet should have given you instructions as to what to do if you noticed failure of the suture line. Absent any instructions from your vet, here are some thoughts: Depending on the location and nature of the wound, (and if you are a competent bandager) you might try bandaging it. If flies are a problem, applying a fly repellent wound ointment may be helpful until your vet can see it. It is always appropriate to gently dab an open wound clean with dilute antiseptics. Do not use harsh, full strength antiseptics unless instructed to do so by your vet. Contact your vet as soon as possible and let them know what happened so the best course can be chosen going forward.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are not sure if your horse needs to be seen immediately or not.
    • If this is a wound of a critical structure and you feel the horse's life and health are at risk.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • To let the vet know of the development, and discuss a course going forward.

your role


What To Do

What Not To Do

Do not try to re-suture the wound yourself. Do not use tissue adhesives of any kind. Do not administer antibiotics or other drugs without your vet's guidance.

your vet's role

Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is there any drainage?
  • Do you notice any lameness?
  • Do you notice swelling in the area?
  • Do you think the horse's attitude and appetite are normal?
  • How aggressively do you want to handle this? We may have other options for repair.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP