Health Care

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Checklist to Applying First Aid

Learn the first step when it comes to attending to your injured horse and when it is essential to call your veterinarian!

The basic principles when applying first aid to a wound is to:

  1. 1

    Calm and restrain the horse

  2. 2

    Control bleeding

  3. 3

    Inspect and assess the wound

  4. 4

    Clean, disinfect and dress the wound

  5. 5

    Protect against tetanus

  6. 6

    Seek veterinary advice if needed

Once bleeding has been controlled the wound should be inspected and then treated and dressed to prevent further damage and contamination. The first 6-8 hours after a wound occurs is known as the “golden period” of wound healing. During this time wounds can be cleaned and sutured if needed, before bacteria that are contaminating the wound can invade the surrounding tissues. Wounds which are closed with stitches after this time have a much higher risk of infection and wound breakdown.

Examine the wound and check if joints, ligaments, tendons or muscles are involved. Look to see if the wound is contaminated with dirt or foreign objects. Wounds that penetrate a joint or involve a tendon or ligament are serious and your vet should be called immediately.

Clean the wound by lightly hosing with cold water to remove as much dirt, debris and dried blood as possible. Clip away any hair that is sticking to the wound from the surrounding skin. Clean the skin around the wound with a pad soaked in a wound-cleaning agent such as povidone iodine solution. The wound itself can be rinsed with saline solution (1 teaspoon of salt in 600mL of boiling water which has been allowed to cool to lukewarm), or a povidone iodine solution which has been diluted to wound strength. Once the wound is clean apply a drying antiseptic wound spray such as CETRIGEN SPRAY.


  • Heavy bleeding that will not stop
  • Suspected bone fractures
  • Wounds which penetrate a joint or involve a tendon or ligament
  • Wounds which penetrate the abdomen or chest cavities
  • Deep wounds (including puncture wounds)
  • Injuries that prevent the horse from bearing weight on a limb
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Choking on feed
  • Collapse or loss of balance
  • Severe fluid diarrhoea with colic
  • Colic with severe and ongoing pain

The wound can then be dressed with a non-stick swab and a layer of cotton wool applied over the dressing. A waterproof bandaging tape can then be used to secure the dressing in place. Wounds should be redressed daily or as advised by your vet. After 2-3 days surface wounds may be best left open – consult your vet for advice. SEPTICIDE cream may be applied to assist with healing and control fly strike. Once wounds have dried, infection has been controlled and healing has commenced.

All wounds involving skin breakages are at risk of infection with tetanus bacterial spores, especially puncture wounds which provide the ideal anaerobic (without oxygen) environment for these bacteria. A Tetanus toxoid booster should be given to horses that have been immunised against tetanus in the last 12 months. Horses with an unknown vaccination history should be given both Tetanus toxoid and Tetanus anti-toxin.

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