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Equine First-Aid and Wound Care

You’ve discovered that your horse has an open wound. If you can do it safely, assess the wound to determine whether it requires an emergency call to your veterinarian. The most obvious sign is gushing or spurting blood. Control heavy bleeding by covering the wound with a pressure bandage or pressing directly on it until help arrives. Call a veterinarian immediately if you discover the wound has clear, yellowish drainage, deformation/distortion in or around the injury, or a deeply embedded foreign object.

Also, look for signs of shock that include irregular breathing, shallow pulse, and unfocused look in the eyes, and/or cold ears and feet. Do not attempt to move or treat a horse if he seems to be in shock. Cover him with light blankets and call your veterinarian immediately.

How to care for a wound

If the injury is not an emergency, you may be able to administer first aid yourself. Do not, however, remove any object from a puncture wound, unless it poses the risk of further injury or the horse is panicking. Also, do not attempt to remove any object that has penetrated the horse’s eye—both situations require veterinary attention.

First, wash the wound with tap water or physiologic saline solution, which stings less than water. You can make your own saline by dissolving two tablespoons of table salt in a gallon of distilled water. Use the minimum amount of pressure necessary to fully rinse the wound surface. Scrub the wound gently with gauze squares, pouring the water or saline onto the square rather than dipping it into a bucket. Discard each square as it becomes soiled. Continue scrubbing until the gauze remains clean of visible dirt.

Next, medicate a superficial wound with an antibiotic paste or other ointment. Reapply the medication daily or more frequently until a protective scab has formed. Bandage, if necessary. Most cuts and abrasions do not require bandaging, but there are situations where a properly applied dressing can help protect the quick-growing and fragile replacement skin. Bandages are most important in leg injuries and deep wounds that penetrate multiple skin layers.

Lastly, inspect the wound daily for the first few days, looking for signs of trouble: grayor greenish-tinged tissues, a foul odor or excessive drainage. After a couple of weeks, be on the lookout for proud flesh, pink, cauliflower-like granulation tissue that delays or halts healing. Reapply recommended ointment or bandaging, but avoid needless meddling, which only lengthens healing.

First Aid Kit

It helps to have a first aid kit handy for emergency situations. There are certain supplies which should be incorporated into every kit. Make sure to mark First Aid Kit on the top and sides. Place the kit in a handy spot in the barn or stable, familiarize yourself with the contents and know how to use them. You may also want to have a more portable version to carry with you when you are out on trail rides, horse camping, or in a situation where veterinary attention is not available. Here are some recommended items for your first aid kit:

  • Thermometer
  • Stethoscope
  • Flashlight
  • Electrolytes
  • Neosporin
  • Diluted iodine solution
  • ">Wound Powder
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Knife
  • Wire cutters
  • Hoof pick
  • Fly lotion
  • Ophthalmic Polysporin
  • Bandaging Materials
  • Latex gloves
  • Irrigating syringe
  • Antibiotic spray
  • Blunt-nosed scissors
  • Epsom salts
  • Petroleum Jelly
  • Betadine scrub