Here’s how to handle a horse’s injury involving a wound.
If you’ve spent any time with horses, you know that they’re basically accidents waiting to happen. If there’s a protruding nail, sharp edge or other hazard around, your horse will surely find it. So what can you do when your horse suffers an injury with a resulting wound? Dr. Amanda Lawson, DVM, a veterinarian at Trinity Veterinary Medical Center in Aurora, Texas shares her advice.
Why Proper Care Matters
From small wounds to larger injuries, giving your horse appropriate care is important not only for your horse’s overall health but also for a faster return to work, exercise, show and performance, Lawson said.
“Poorly treated wounds can lead to secondary factors that can slow your healing, such as swelling, infection, cellulitis and habronemiasis (summer sores), especially in Texas where flies are abundant,” Lawson said. “Wound care is even more important when the location of the wound is over important structures such as a joint or synovial structure.”
Your horse has a wound. Now what? Lawson says the answer differs and is dependent on the location of the wound, how big or deep the wound is, and even how long the wound has been there.
“The most important first step is to contact your veterinarian to help guide you in deciding your next step, whether it’s an emergency or not,” Lawson said.
Remain as calm as possible. If your horse is bleeding, don’t place any ointments on the wound—apply pressure and a bandage, if possible.
“If not bleeding profusely, try to clean and dry the area, avoiding placing fingers into the wound,” Lawson said.
Take a photo of the wound to send your veterinarian for guidance to see ifthey need to see the horse right away or not. Some wounds can be sutured, and others cannot.
“Topical antibiotics are very commonly used, in some cases, even systematically,” Lawson said. “Pain medications are often given, such as Bute or Banamine. Tetanus Toxoid is also administered.”
Some wounds can heal with just bandaging, some require sutures, and Lawson says if the wound is on a limb, a cast can be applied. But if your horse has a limb wound, proper bandaging technique is important.
Treatment to Avoid
Lawson advises against removing any foreign bodies such as a nail, because removing it can cause more harm or bleeding. Avoid putting any ointments, sprays, salves or alcohol into the wound. Leave these methods to your veterinarian.
“I once had a client apply blood stop powder to a wound, and it ended up being more harm than good,” Lawson said. “I like when clients wait to give any medications until the horse is examined. Bute may mask pain that can go unnoticed at first.”
Meet the Expert
Amanda Lawson, DVM, IVCA, is a veterinarian at Trinity Veterinary Medical Center in Aurora, Texas. Originally from east Tennessee, after graduating from veterinary school in 2013, she moved to Bryan, Texas, where she completed a one-year internship at Texas Equine Hospital. She was then an associate for five subsequent years. In 2018, Lawson completed the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association certification. In 2019 she moved to Weatherford, Texas, and joined Trinity Veterinary Medical Center. She provides equine field services to Dallas-Fort Worth area
Wound Management and Wrapping How-To
Here’s how Dr. Amanda Lawson, DVM, cares for a typical leg wound with a bandage, starting with removing the existing bandage and re-wrapping.
Directions and photos by Jessica Patanella
Step 1: Remove old bandage with surgical blade or scissors.
Step 2: Sterile prep/clean wound with dilute betadine solution and surgical scrub brush. Only dab the wound with the sponge side. Remove exudate surrounding the wound with brush side. You can use a light amount of water, but you don’t want to wash away healthy cells with high pressure hydrotherapy.
Step 3: Apply a triple antibiotic cream with steroid to a non-stick Telfa pad to cover wound. Pressure from the wrap and steroid in dressing can prevent proud flesh. You can use a silver sulfadiazine (SSD) cream in other stages of wound healing.
Step 4: Wrap over Telfa with 3-inch cast padding. You’re going for 50 percent overlap, and make sure there are no wrinkles or waffling in the wrap. Wrap from the inside out with pressure across the cannon bone (don’t pull tendons on the back; think “push” to the back).
Step 5: Wrap with sheet cotton long enough to cover from hock to the ground.
Step 6: Wrap with brown gauze with a 50 percent overlap. Make sure there are no wrinkles or waffling in the wrap. Wrap from the inside out.
Step 7: Wrap with vet wrap with 50 percent overlap. Make sure there are no wrinkles or waffling in the wrap. Wrap from the inside out. Don’t pull tight; lay over with enough pressure to stick to vet wrap.
Step 8: Apply 3-inch Elastikon with 50 percent on skin and 50 percent overlap. On the bottom, make sure it goes under the heel bulb so it does not slip up.
Step 9: Secure Elastikon with white Zonas Porous Tape or super glue to ensure wrap does not come undone.
Leave wrap 5 to 7 days, and confine movement to stall rest or small turnout.
This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue of Barrel Horse News.