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


Gunshot Wound Suspected


Thankfully, gunshot wounds are uncommon in horses. It can be impossible to differentiate a gunshot entry from any other puncture wound unless a bullet is located. Wounds thought to be caused by gunshot often turn out to be the result of another accident. On the other hand, I have examined a horse for a puncture wound, radiograph the area, and been surprised to find a bullet.

The most important factor determining the severity of these wounds is the location of the entry and exit wounds and the structures that were traversed by the bullet. The caliber, type and velocity of the bullet determines the amount of damage to the impacted structures.

These injuries are life-threatening if they involve an important organ or structure, such as an abdominal organ or the lungs. Gunshot wounds penetrating the limbs may cause fracture or damage to joints or other critical structures.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

If you suspect (or know) that your horse has been shot, note the location of the wound. If possible, assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and promptly call your vet.

What Not To Do

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

your vet's role

Your vet will try to determine what internal structures are involved and monitor or stabilize your horse's overall systemic health.

The diagnostics and treatments your vet uses will depend on the nature of the wound and the structures involved. Your vet may use radiography, ultrasound or exploratory surgery to further clarify the extent of the damage.

They may choose to remove the bullet (or not) and might debride any badly damaged tissue. The more normal your horse's physical exam findings, especially after several hours, the less likely that vital organs are involved.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice the wound?
  • Where exactly is the wound and tell me more about it?
  • How do you know this is a gunshot wound?
  • Did you actually see it happen?
  • Do you notice other wounds?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP