Treating Minor Horse Wounds

Full Length Of Young Woman Applying Bandage To Injured Pony On Field

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It’s inevitable that your horse will get scratched, cut, or bruised at some point during its life. Horses squabble in their pastures, get caught on twigs or fence rails, or scrape themselves on gates or stall walls. Most often these minor wounds heal quickly with no further problem. It is important to know the difference between a minor knick, cut, bruise, or scrape and one that needs the attention of a veterinarian. With a basic first aid kit, however, you will be able to treat most minor injuries yourself. It is also important that your horse has an annual tetanus shot.

  • 01 of 07

    Assessing the Wound

    Medical bandage for horse
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    It’s easy to panic when you see a cut in your horse’s otherwise perfect coat, or blood trickling down a leg. But keeping a cool head will help you assess whether you have an emergency or a situation you can deal with yourself.

    If your horse is eating, moving, and otherwise acting normal, and TPRs (temperature, pulse, and respiration) are normal, chances are good that all will be well. If the horse appears to be in pain, the bleeding does not stop after a reasonable time or any other abnormal behavior worries you, your veterinarian is your best advisor. Always keep your vet's number handy. 

    While you are waiting for the vet, either safely tie or stable your horse, and try to keep it and yourself calm. Remember, however, that if your horse is acting in a manner that may injure you, you must keep yourself safe first.

  • 02 of 07

    Scrapes

    Horses wild biting each other
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    The most common pasture injuries are scrapes. Scrapes occur for many reasons and result in the shearing off of the hair and a bit of skin. Sometimes just the hair will be missing, or the scrape may go a bit deeper, leaving a red inflamed bald area. These scrapes usually heal easily on their own without leaving scars. Because they only affect the top most layer of skin, they are unlikely to become infected.

    First-aid for minor scrapes is to clean the area with clean water. A good rinse from the hose does a good job of washing off any excess dirt and grit. An antibiotic ointment usually isn't necessary for a superficial wound, as this may trap dirt at the site. Frequently, it's best to allow very superficial, minor skin scraps to heal naturally. If a scrape with redness and/or swelling is under the saddle or girth area, it may be best to let the area heal a bit before riding the horse.

  • 03 of 07

    Minor Cuts

    Veterinarian bandaging leg of a horse
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    Cuts can be more serious. Their severity depends on their location, how contaminated they are when you find them, and how deep they go into the tissue. If the cut is small and shallow, it can be flushed out and treated with an ointment or salve. Deeper cuts may need dressing to keep the tissue clean during the first week or so of healing, although it can be difficult to keep a bandage in place on some areas of the horse's body. On legs, a gauze dressing kept on with a regularly changed leg wrap usually works nicely.

    Check cuts twice daily for any signs of swelling or foul discharge as these signs indicate infection. Depending on the length and depth of the cut, it may been to be stitched by a veterinarian. Stitches will decrease overall healing time and reduce scarring. If you can, clean the area of any dirt, and wait for the veterinarian. Again, consider your own safety first. If the horse won’t tolerate you touching the area, the vet will administer a sedative to keep the horse calm while treatment takes place. A horse with a deeper cut would also benefit from a tetanus booster at the time of the accident.

  • 04 of 07

    Deep Cuts

    Sweden, Stitching horse leg cut.
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    Larger, deeper cuts will require veterinary treatment. Wire or splintered fence rails, kicks from other horses, branches and other sharp objects can cause cuts. Situations where a veterinarian should be called immediately involve any large wound, a wound with excessive bleeding or bleeding that will not stop, wounds involving a joint or eye, or a wound that is resulting in visible pain or lameness in your horse. Additionally, if any other situation involving a break in your horse's skin causes you worry, there's no harm in calling your vet for medical advice.

    Some large lacerations develop a complication while healing called proud flesh. Also called equine exuberant granuloma, proud flesh is a large granular piece of tissue that obstructs the complete healing of the wound and is unsightly. Proper wound management can help reduce the development of proud flesh and if it does develop, your veterinarian can help reduce its growth.

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  • 05 of 07

    Puncture Wounds

    Close up of the flank of a horse in Costa Rica that has been bitten by a vampire bat at night, showing the dried blood.
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    Puncture wounds can look small and seem harmless, but because of their depth and the potential for life-threatening infection, they should always be treated seriously. Punctures can occur anywhere on the body, including the sole of the hoof and coronet band along the top of the hoof. Because they are hard to clean out, harmful bacteria can grow deep in the tissue and cause infection. If you suspect a puncture wound on your horse, call your veterinarian. Because puncture wounds need to heal from the inside out, proper treatment is required to prevent the outside of the puncture from healing over, possibly trapping bacteria within. A tetanus booster should be given to any horse that has suffered from a puncture wound.

  • 06 of 07

    Bruising

    Young horses playing
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    Bruising or swelling under the skin can be caused when a horse bumps into a solid object like a fence post or stall door or is kicked by another horse. Most bruises heal on their own. Cold water hosing of the affected area a few times of day can help ease the horse's discomfort. Stone bruising on the soles of the hooves may indicate a change in hoof trimming/shoeing methods is required.

  • 07 of 07

    Prevention

    Horse eating hay in stall.

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    Once you have had the vet out or administered first aid, check your pastures and fences for anything that may have caused the injury. Sometimes horses have to be separated if they are fighting to the point of hurting each other. This way you can prevent future injuries.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.