Four important questions to ask when a horse sustains a wound or laceration:
- Is bleeding easily controlled?
- Will the wound or laceration require stitches?
- Is the wound near a joint, tendon sheath, or bursa?
- Is it a puncture wound?
If the wound or laceration is bleeding, a pressure bandage should be applied immediately and a determination made as to whether or not the bleeding requires a veterinarian's attention.
If an artery has been cut, bright red blood that spurts with the heart-beat may be present. Such bleeding may not stop under pressure alone, so a call to the veterinarian is in order.
If the wound or laceration is large or creates gaping skin, sutures may be required for protection and healing. A veterinarian should be called to examine the wound carefully and assess the depth of the wound and whether are not any underlying structures are involved. The wound can then be stitched and proper treatment given to prevent infection. Wounds that involve only the skin can usually just be cleansed and bandaged.
Joint or tendon wounds
If the wound is in the area of a joint, tendon sheath, or bursa, the attention of a veterinarian is extremely important because flushing the area surgically, often via arthroscopy, greatly reduces the chances of loss of function and infection. The affected area should be bandaged and the horse placed on stall rest.
Horses often incur puncture wounds to the foot. Puncture wounds are potentially the most serious of all wounds because they tend to penetrate the horse's flesh, with bacteria coming trapped in the wound.
At the first sign of lameness, it is important to examine the sole and frog. In many cases, the object that caused the puncture wound will be visible. If the object is not visible, a hoof tester may be used to locate the site of the injury. Puncture wounds of the sole are among the most serious because of the lack of drainage to the outside.
If the wound is in the back of the hoof, bacteria may invade the navicular bursa. From there, the infection can travel up the entire leg of the horse with extremely serious consequences. An abscess in the foot area can lead to all kinds of problems, including septicemia, bacterial laminitis, and tetanus.
All horses that suffer puncture wounds should receive a tetanus toxoid booster if the state of immunity is unknown. In cases involving puncture wounds, bleeding should be allowed to continue and the veterinarian should be called.
For minor puncture wounds, the entire sole and frog should be cleansed and washed. The wound should be opened up and irrigated with a dilute Betadine solution, then packed with Betadine-saturated gauze. Irrigation should be repeated daily until healing is established and the horse should be confined in a clean, dry stall. At any sign of infection, a veterinarian should be called to determine if antibiotics are necessary.
Prompt attention to all wounds will help ensure the health of the horse and prevent serious complications. In cases of minor wounds, owners or handlers can often effectively disinfect and bandage the wound, but if the wound is serious or a puncture wound, the services of a veterinarian are necessary.