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Topical Wound Care for Horses
Sooner or later, it's bound to happen. Your horse comes in
with a wound that needs attention. Do you know the best first
aid for your horse's needs?
"A wound to your horse's body can take the form of an abrasion,
puncture or full thickness skin cut," notes Dr. Glennon Mays,
clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
"The body has its own marvelous mechanisms for healing injured
tissue," states Mays. "Following the trauma, the body sends
white blood cells to the injured site to clean up the damaged cells
and fight infection. These white blood cells rid the wound of
dead cells and bacteria. This expelling of non-viable cells
can be seen as either a clear or slightly yellow discharge."
The first thought at the sight of this oozing is to dry it up,
however, the white blood cells need moisture to continue their
healing work, explains Mays. If additional moisture is
needed, an antibiotic topical ointment can be applied.
"The body also responds to the wound with inflammation," notes
Mays. "The cells that respond to the injured tissue do so to
increase blood flow which facilitates clean up and repair of the
wound. This extra flow of blood brings swelling, redness and
heat to the injured area. Therefore, inflammation should be
controlled but not suppressed."
The body continues to remove contaminants while there is
inflammation, explains Mays. As decontamination continues,
cells that produce repair material move into the wound area.
Then granulation tissue forms. Excessive granulation can result in
"proud flesh" when the new tissue extends beyond the surface of the
wound margins. Moisture does stimulate granulation and
excessive moisture often results in "proud flesh" which prohibits
continuation of the healing process. If the wound appears to
have excessive granulation tissue, the aid of veterinary care is
"Wound treatment may include a combination of antibiotics to
control infection, anti-inflammatory injections for pain management
and ointments for wound medication," notes Mays.
In treating any wound, the first step should be to clean the
injured flesh, states Mays. Flushing the wound with water or
saline solution will help remove dirt and bacteria from the
cut. Saline solution can be made by dissolving two
tablespoons of table salt in one gallon of distilled water.
Wounds that are exceptionally dirty may need an antimicrobial wash
which contains iodine. This wash will kill surface bacteria
while cleansing the wound.
"Call your veterinarian if the wound is over a joint, involves
bone/ligaments or pulls apart when your horse moves," explains
Mays. "A wound to your horse's leg, especially near a joint
where there is motion, should be referred to your
veterinarian. If your horse receives a below-the-knee leg
wound, it is best to seek medical assistance since leg tissue mass
is limited and there can be contamination from dirt."
Bandaging may not be necessary for some cuts and
abrasions. However, leg wounds may need bandaging to reduce
dirt contamination and skin motion so that healing can occur, notes
Mays. A bandage keeps topical medication on the wound.
Also, the light pressure of the bandage suppresses excess outgrowth
of skin and promotes less scaring.
Small wounds may go undetected, cautions Mays. They may
not be seen before contamination and infection occur. Since
tetanus is always a threat, be sure that your horse receives a
tetanus vaccination and stays current.
Horses are prone to injury. Knowing basic first aid
treatments for healing their wounds will allow you to assess the
situation and determine the best treatment for your horse.
The right medication administered at the proper time by the proper
person can facilitate the natural healing process of your horse's
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