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


Wound to Lip or Mouth


Wounds to the lip and mouth are common equine injuries. They can vary from tiny punctures and scratches to full-thickness wounds that cut large parts of the lip off. Most of these dramatic wounds are from bucket hooks and other metal stall fixtures that the horse hooks the lip on.

Fortunately, the lip has an excellent blood supply and heals well. Small wounds that do not disfigure the contours of the mouth and have no skin flap will heal with little or no treatment. In contrast, wounds that disrupt the lip margin or look to have a flap of skin should be repaired by your vet as soon as possible to preserve the look and function of the mouth.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you wish to have the best functional and cosmetic outcome, no matter the cost.
    • Blood is running, or dripping rapidly from the wound.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

your role


What To Do

Assess the wound and the mouth (wear gloves) looking for any other abnormalities. Take a photo of the wound and send it to your vet. Consider when you think the wound probably occurred. Check the horse for other wounds. Do not apply any medications to the wound without your vet's guidance. Some topical wound ointments may interfere with healing if the wound is to be sutured.

Rarely, mysterious (especially repeated) wounds to the lips and muzzle may occur in horses that fall down face-forward (sleep deprivation and narcolepsy). If this could be the case with your horse, contact your vet who may discuss options for determining the underlying cause of this repetitive trauma.

What Not To Do

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

your vet's role


Your vet will likely clean the wound up well, assess it and determine options for treatment. Vets repair most lip and mouth wounds surgically to preserve the look and function of the mouth. They also tend to heal well with surgical repair, even if they are over 24 hours old.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Are there wounds elsewhere?
  • When did you first notice the wound?
  • Does the wound appear fresh to you?
  • When do you think the wound occurred?
  • Does the horse's appetite and attitude seem normal?
  • Can you send me a photo?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP