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


Wound to Head or Face


In the equine head, the bone of the skull lies right under the skin. Large, air-filled sinus compartments fill the front part of the skull, while the brain rests within the rear of the skull, between the ears. The skin of the face has a rich blood supply, meaning that simple wounds tend to heal rapidly and well. Simple wounds to the face that do not involve bone and do not create a flap of loose tissues may not require much treatment, if any.

When major trauma accompanies a head wound, there is a concern of brain injury, damaged bone or even damaged teeth. When wounds damage bone, there is a possibility of chronic bone or sinus infection.

Head and face injuries are common in horses and the wounds that result can be very dramatic but usually heal well. Signs that there was significant concussion associated with the injury could include bleeding from the nose, eyes or mouth. Injuries that involve the brain often cause change in behavior or other signs related to the nervous system, including changes in gait, depressed attitude, seizures, or changes in eye position, among many others. Brain trauma is relatively rare.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you are concerned by the size and severity of the wound.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
    • If the wound occurred within the last 24 hours.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • If the wound occurred over 24 hours ago.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the horse's general attitude and appetite, rectal temperature, and ability to walk normally. Take a photo of the wound and share it with your vet. Look for displaced flaps of tissue that will need to be pulled back into place for a cosmetic repair.

What Not To Do

Do not apply any topical medications to the injury, unless advised to do so by your vet. They could interfere with your vet's ability to repair the wound.

your vet's role

Your vet evaluates every head wound individually in order to determine the treatment options. We determine the involvement of other structures, like the sinuses. Sometimes we need other diagnostics, like x-ray to help determine bone involvement. Depending on the configuration of the wound and other factors, your vet will discuss treatment options which include repair or allowing the wound to heal as an open wound.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • How long ago do you think this occurred?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Where, exactly, is it located? Can you provide a photo?
  • Are there flaps of skin that you think could be repaired?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • How aggressive do you want to be in treating this?

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

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP