Last Updated on July 26, 2022
As a horse owner or carer, it is vital that you know how to treat an open wound on a horse. Horses can sustain injuries at any time of day or night, and the correct first aid treatment is vital to ensure that the wound heals rapidly and without complications. Let’s find out how to treat an open wound on a horse!
What Is An Open Wound?
An open wound is one that lacerates the surface of the skin, exposing the flesh underneath. For a wound to be classified as open the skin must be broken, unlike bruises and hematomas, where the skin surface remains intact.
Horses can sustain open wounds in a variety of ways, and there are many different types of open wounds. They can cut the skin on any area of the body, and the depth of the wound can vary from a skin graze to a deep laceration that penetrates the organs underneath.
Types of open wounds in horses include:
- Surgical wounds, as a result of veterinary surgical procedures. This includes wounds that are sutured and heal normally and those that break down and reopen.
- Lacerations – wounds with a clean edge where none of the skin is missing
- Puncture wounds, such as bites, gunshots, and wire penetration injuries
- Abrasion wounds, where some or all of the skin tissue is destroyed
- Avulsion wounds, also known as degloving, where the skin is torn away from the underlying tissues
- Burns and scalds, including toxic chemical burns
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How To Treat An Open Wound On A Horse
To know how to treat an open wound on a horse, we first need to understand a little bit about the stages of wound healing. The manner in which any wound heals is split into several stages:
Phase 1: The Inflammatory Phase
This occurs immediately after the injury occurs, and is triggered by the mechanisms that cause blood to start clotting in the wound. Although we often think of inflammation as a bad thing, in this situation it is a natural response by the body in response to an injury. Specialist cells are attracted to the wound that can destroy bacteria and debride dead and damaged tissue.
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Phase 2: The Proliferative Phase
During this stage, fibroblasts are laying down the structures necessary for the wound to heal. First of all a matrix is laid down, over which new capillaries and granulation tissue develop. This appears in the form of a pink, sponge-like tissue that fills in the deficit left by the wound.
- Phase 3: The Remodelling Phase
In the final phase of wound healing, the healing wound is strengthened and remodeled as new collagen is laid down. For these three phases to be carried out effectively, the wound needs the optimum conditions to enable it to heal. This means that the wound will need to be cared for correctly at each stage to ensure that full and rapid healing can be facilitated.
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What Do You Do If You Find A Wound On Your Horse?
The first thing to do is visually inspect the location, depth, and extent of the wound. If there is any likelihood that it has penetrated a vital structure such as an internal organ, the eyes, or a joint, seek veterinary help immediately.
For wounds that only affect the skin, you can carry out some minor first aid at home. If the horse is calm and you have someone to restrain it, apply pressure over the wound with a clean dressing to stem the bleeding. This can be bandaged in place for a short period.
Once the bleeding has stopped you can evaluate and treat the wound. Wash the wound thoroughly with cold water, sterile saline, or a dilute chlorhexidine solution. Never use strong antiseptic solutions on open wounds, as they can delay the healing process.
The hair can be clipped away from the wound if necessary, but avoid getting loose hair inside the wound. A wound barrier gel can be useful to keep the wound protected here.
If the wound looks complex or deep, it may require veterinary attention and suture. Minor wounds can be treated by the application of a clean dressing to prevent flies from contaminating the wound. Infection and movement of the wound will also slow down wound healing.
So, as we have learned, the question of how to treat an open wound on a horse involves keeping the wound clean and free from infection. If the wound can be immobilised or covered it will heal more quickly. Wound healing will be delayed by infection, flies, and excessive movement of the wound site.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to treat an open wound on a horse! Have you ever nursed a horse that had an extensive open wound? Or maybe you’ve got some questions about the best medication to use on an open wound on a horse? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
How Long Does It Take For An Open Wound To Heal On A Horse?
The time it takes for an open wound to heal on a horse depends on the size and depth of the wound. Large, deep wounds can take several weeks or even months to heal. Minor wounds with small skin deficits can heal in under a week.
What Is The Fastest Way To Heal A Wound On A Horse?
The fastest types of wound to heal on horses are simple lacerations that are sutured closed as soon as possible. Kept clean and bandaged, these wounds can heal relatively quickly.
What Can I Put On A Horse Open Wound?
Anything that is used on an open wound must be sterile and non-irritant. A weak chlorhexidine or sterile saline solution can be used to clean wounds. Sterile dressings can be used to stop flies from contaminating the wound.
How Do I Know If My Horse Wound Is Infected?
An infected wound will be swollen, hot and painful. You may see discharge from the wound site, and healing of the wound will be delayed.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then wenton to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE