A veterinarian should always examine the following types of wounds:
Gaping wounds or areas where patches of skin are peeled away or missing. Even if you suspect that it cannot be sutured, a vet can assess any damage and make treatment recommendations.
Older wounds with devitalized tissue. Dead tissue may need to be removed to facilitate healing. A professional should always perform this initially, but further debridement can be performed at home as directed.
Lacerations to the face, which should always be sutured to prevent infection and to promote a more esthetic appearance.
Are puncture wounds a big deal?
They often look innocent enough but can result in a serious infection. That’s because bacteria is deposited into underlying tissues. These organisms are trapped as the skin heals.
Because certain bacteria, such as the causative agent of Tetanus, thrive in this kind of oxygen-deprived environment, it is imperative that the injured horse receive a Tetanus toxoid booster if more than three months have lapsed since its last immunization. If it wasn’t previously vaccinated for the disease, or the status is unknown, both toxoid and antitoxin (the antitoxin will offer temporary protection until the toxoid takes full effect) should be administered, along with a toxoid booster in two weeks. Early signs of Tetanus include:
Prolapse of the third eyelid and generalized stiffness.
Additionally, those affected are often sensitive to light and sound, and adopt the “sawhorse” stance.
Because the incubation period for the disease varies, it can take days to weeks to develop. Contact you veterinarian immediately if you have suspicions.
What can I do while waiting for the vet?
Control the bleeding:
Apply pressure to bleeding areas immediately. If you suspect a major vessel has been damaged, call your veterinarian while you apply compression. When applying pressure, do not assess your progress before 20 minutes of compression. Doing so will disrupt the clotting cascade and may necessitate starting over.
If the material you placed over the bleeding is saturated, quickly add more. It is OK to add layers as long as the bulk doesn’t make it more difficult to apply direct pressure.
Compression is held in place by hand on areas of the body, but you can apply pressure dressings relatively easily to the legs. Wrap them snugly, but not too tight. If swelling occurs below the bandage, loosen immediately.
Severed blood vessels on the feet and lower extremities often bleed profusely, especially if the horse is moving around. Keep the horse as still as possible. Apply a pressure bandage over the wound. If you are unable to keep your horse from moving about or apply a dressing, a slow stream of cold water from a hose directed at the wound can assist in clotting.
If gauze or other material is stuck to the surface of the wound, bleeding may resume if it is removed. Saturating the material with water will facilitate removal.
What should I do if I think I'm capable of caring for the wound?
Clip the hair away from the margins of the wound, taking care to protect the wound and sweep loose hair away; clipped hair sticks to exposed tissue and is difficult to remove later.
Clean the area. The wound is already contaminated, so tap water is acceptable. Resist the urge to scrub. Abrasive treatment may disrupt clots and inflict more trauma. Lavage with pressure is most beneficial. A water hose with an adjustable spray nozzle works well, using moderate pressure.
Once visible contamination and debris have been lavaged away, gently clean the wound with an antimicrobial solution. Do not use peroxide, as it can exacerbate bleeding and damage delicate tissues. Povidone Iodine or chlorhexidine are the most commonly used antimicrobial solutions. Although it is fine to use either solution full strength on intact skin, dilute them with water when cleansing delicate or exposed tissues.
Don’t forget the tetanus immunization.
When is a bandage necessary?
Bandaging is usually not necessary, as long as the wound is kept clean. Application of MeliHeal twice daily for several days should suffice. However, when bandaging a leg is necessary, it is vital to follow appropriate wrapping protocol:
Apply a nonstick pad to the area and secure with gauze.
Pad the leg with cotton and wrap with cohesive bandage. Always wrap front to back and inside to out, overlapping the material evenly. Elastic wraps have a cumulative effect when layered, so avoid stretching the material as you go. Improperly wrapping a leg can result in damage to tendons and other soft tissues.
Unless otherwise instructed by your vet, assess the wound and apply fresh dressing daily. Any bandage or wrap that appears overly tight or sagging should be removed immediately.