By Matt Randall, DVM
Start with standard items like a knife, hoof pick, scissors, fly spray, flashlight, farrier tools, latex gloves, paper towels, hand sanitizer, screwdriver, pliers and wire cutters, as well as bailing twine or wire.
Any type of scissors will work in a pinch, but bandage scissors, which are specially designed for safety, may make you feel more confident about using them around an injured and nervous horse.
You will also need handy health gadgets such as a digital thermometer and stethoscope, both of which can be found for a reasonable price at your local drug store.
Wound cleansing & dressing
For wound cleansing and dressing, you should have saline solution, Betadine solution, triple antibiotic ointment and aluminum spray. A hemostatic agent is also extremely helpful for profusely bleeding wounds or cut arteries that don’t respond to a pressure wrap.
If you don’t have saline, contact lens saline solution will work in a pinch. If it’s safe for your eye, it’s generally safe for a wound. Sometimes, the smaller opening of the contact solution will give you added pressure for cleansing.
Be sure you get Betadine solution, not scrub. The scrub has a detergent in it, so it’s not as good on open wounds. Betadine scrub is better for cleansing the skin for surgical procedures. In my opinion, Betadine solution is best for a first aid kit because it’s okay if you get in an eye.
As for the triple antibiotic, Neosporin from the drug store will work just fine if you can’t get some from your veterinarian or veterinary supply.
Originally developed for the military, Celox is a newer hemostatic agent available to horse owners through their veterinarians. Unlike other products, it’s easier on the tissues surrounding the injury than some older products. It comes in pads, gauze and a powder, and the pads are perfect for a first aid kit. They’re relatively inexpensive and have a shelf life of three years.
Aluminum spray, or as I prefer to call it a ‘scab in a can,’ is great for superficial wounds.
Basic bandage materials include gauze pads, Telfa or non-stick pads, roll gauze, Vetrap or similar self-adhesive wrap, cotton combine, Elastikon and duct tape.
Buy the larger Telfa pads. You can always cut them into smaller sizes as needed.
When it comes to purchasing Vetrap, just buy the good stuff. You get what you pay for, and it just plain works better. That same rule applies to Elastikon and duct tape.
A cotton combine is like a disposable quilt wrap. I don’t recommend rolled cotton because it just makes a mess. A combine has an outer casing that makes it hold its form better. This makes it easier to wrap and a better option if a pressure or support bandage is needed. Although it will stick to weeping wounds, it won’t stick as badly as plain cotton.
Also, don’t skip the roll gauze. It’s usefulness in making a smooth bandage cannot be underestimated.
Drugs & Medications
Your kit may contain both oral and injectable medications. Injectables act quicker than oral medications, but their use is often dependent on the person’s knowledge and comfort level with administering an injection. You want to stock pain-relievers and sedatives as well as needles and syringes to administer the injectables.
For pain relief, use good old-fashioned Bute and Banamine, or the new kid on the block, Equioxx. Bute and Equioxx are better for musculoskeletal (bone) pain, while Banamine is better for visceral/gut pain (colic). All three come in paste and injectable forms.
Be aware that they all can lose potency in extreme weather conditions, especially heat. Check the expiration dates, but don’t throw it out if it’s expired until you have replacements. Old stuff is better than no stuff in an emergency.
For sedation, oral Dormosedan gel is now available. It does take quite a while to soak in and can take 20 minutes or longer to take effect. Acepromazine can also be given in the mouth, but it, too, will take longer to work.
As far as syringes go, have 12 cc syringes for your pain relievers, and 3 cc syringes for your sedatives. Typically for an intravenous injection use a 1-inch needle, and for intramuscular injections, use a 1.5-inch needle.
Please visit with your veterinary about proper dosage and administration of these products.
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