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


Puncture Wound, Anywhere on Body


A small but deep puncture wound may be more problematic than a larger superficial wound or laceration. As with all wounds, the most important question is always where the wound is located and what anatomic structures are involved.

Puncture wounds tend to become infected because they penetrate into deep tight spaces that often are less able to drain. In addition, there is a greater likelihood that a foreign body (or remnants of a foreign body) remain within the deeper cavity, resulting in chronic infection. Deeper wounds have a greater likelihood of penetrating critical structures like joints and other body cavities. Depending upon what structures are penetrated, this could result in severe lameness or body-wide illness often shown as depressed attitude or loss of appetite.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you notice lameness in addition to this sign.
    • 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 wounds appear serious or accompanied by swelling or drainage.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If you are convinced that the injury is minor and you notice no lameness or other problem.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying close attention to attitude and appetite, rectal temperature, heart rate and the presence or absence of lameness at the walk. If the wound has just happened and is bleeding badly, apply focal pressure as needed to stop it until your vet arrives. When in doubt about any wound, take a photo of the wound and send it to your vet for discussion. Take note of drainage appearance and amount, swelling and any odor to the wound.

What Not To Do

Do not apply antibiotic products to the injury unless advised to do so by your vet. Unless advised by your vet, do not remove any foreign body. Leave it in place for your vet to remove.

your vet's role

Your vet determines the severity of a puncture wound by clipping away hair, cleaning the skin and the wound itself, and carefully examining and exploring the wound. In most cases, vets use stainless steel probes to explore the depths of a wound. How potentially severe a wound is depends on many factors, but anatomic location is probably the most important. Once your vet has done the necessary diagnostics, they will discuss treatment options and prognosis.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice lameness?
  • Do you notice any other signs in the affected area?
  • Where is the wound exactly?
  • When do you think the wound occurred?
  • When did you first notice the wound?
  • Can you send a photo of the problem?
  • How old do you think the wound is?
  • Are there wounds elsewhere?
  • How severe does the wound look?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • How do you think this happened?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

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Less Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP