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


Bleeding from Anywhere on Body, Severe

Control Bleeding on Lower Limb with Pressure Bandage


The most common reason for visible bleeding on a horse's body is a traumatic wound. Excessive bleeding can also occur after a castration or other surgical operation, if the surgical wound breaks open.

In rare cases, bleeding can occur from a body orifice, most commonly the nostrils. This can indicate hemorrhage into the lower respiratory tract, guttural pouch, sinus or nasal passage (see that related record).
Clotting abnormalities are rare (loss of platelets or clotting factor proteins normally produced in the liver) but can also cause widespread bleeding.

Generally, horses can lose about 8% of their body weight in blood before going into severe shock. That is about 10 gallons of blood for a 1000 lb horse. Shock is often shown as white gums, cold ears and muzzle, high heart rate, anxiety and weakness.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
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your role


What To Do

Most severe bleeding from a location can be controlled with consistent, firm pressure placed directly on the source of hemorrhage. A towel or gauze is ideal but a finger or heel of hand can work too. While it is not always possible to visualize the source let alone put pressure on it, one can usually block blood flow emanating from the wound and cause sufficient back pressure on the source to at least slow bleeding until help arrives.

Signs of severe blood loss include distress, sweating, rapid heart rate, and pale mucous membranes. If there has been enough blood loss to cause these signs of shock, your vet should examine your horse immediately.

In some cases, bleeding is not proportional to the size of the wound, or it may persist, possibly indicating the existence of a clotting disorder or involvement of a large vessel.

What Not To Do

Do not apply powders or ointments to severely bleeding wounds. They likely will not help and may hurt the chances for veterinary repair.

your vet's role

Your vet determines the general cause of the bleeding. This may involve assessment of overall health and clotting function. Depending on the nature of the bleeding, a vet might tie off (ligate) a bleeding vessel, put pressure on a leg wound to stop bleeding, or give medications to help improve clotting function. In all cases, they will treat predisposing causes for the bleeding.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Where does the bleeding seem to be coming from?
  • How much blood do you think has been lost?
  • Where does the wound seem to be located?
  • Can I have your location and directions to get to you as soon as possible?
  • Do you notice other wounds?
  • Are you able to stop or slow the bleeding with pressure?
  • Do you notice bleeding out of other areas, nostrils, mouth, eyes, ears, anus, vulva or penis/sheath?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP