Ask the Equine Vet: Basic Wound Care

How to Use Your Equine First Aid Kit
Author:  Sallie S. Hyman,  VMD, DACVIM, CVA

Basic Wound Care

Use the saline flush to rinse off any debris and blood.
Clean the wound with betadine scrub on gauze 4x4s.
Rinse again with the saline flush
Dry around the wound with a clean towel
Place a dry Telfa over the wound.
If on a lower leg: Wrap over the Telfa with a roll of gamgee
Secure the gamgee by wrapping over it with a roll of vetwrap
The bandage should not be applied too tightly. You should be able to easily get a finger under the top or bottom of the bandage.
Contact you veterinarian if you are unsure if the wound needs to be sutured.

Foreign Body Injury

If your horse impales itself on a branch, nail, piece of metal, etc. resist the urge to pull the object out. Unless it is very superficial you may end up leaving a piece of it deeper in or the wound may begin to bleed profusely. If you horse steps on a nail, it is very important for your veterinarian to take an x-ray to see exactly what structures were penetrated by the foreign body (such as the navicular bursa, coffin joint, deep digital flexor tendon). You may gently flush the area with the saline solution if it is very dirty. If it is a foot injury, you can put a thick wrap on with roll cotton or gamgee covered with vet wrap, elastikon, or duct tape until your vet arrives.

Eye Injuries

Most horses won’t let you touch an injured eye without sedation, but if yours will, you can gently flush the eye with eye flush. If your veterinarian advises you to, you may also put some triple antibiotic OPTHALMIC ointment in the eye. Do NOT use Neosporin or topical wound triple antibiotic ointment in the eye. Eye injuries are always true emergencies and should always been seen by your veterinarian.

Severe Bleeding

If you horse cuts himself and there is severe bleeding (arterial bleeding will often pulsate or spray from wound) you should apply pressure to the area. You can use the 4x4s, gamgee (don’t use roll cotton if possible, it may leave cotton fibers in the wound) or even the clean towels to help you apply pressure. If the wound is on a lower leg, you can apply a thick tight bandage. Place a telfa directly over the wound and some 4x4s on top (this will give some additional pressure). Wrap the telfa/4x4s with roll gauze. Then put on a layer of gamgee or roll cotton. Secure this with more roll gauze or vet wrap. This layer can be pretty snug to apply pressure. In extremely severe cases, a tourniquet can be used. You should use a tourniquet only if your veterinarian has instructed you on how to correctly apply one. It should not be kept on for more than 20-30 minutes.

Check out the website to fill your emergency kit with everything you need. With a little effort, you can be prepared to face emergencies in the barn or on the road. Knowing that you have your emergency supplies on hand will help you to keep a cool head, no matter what happens.

Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.  In particular, all horse owners should seek advice  and treatment from a licensed veterinarian for their horses’ medical care. 

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