Here is some step by step guidance when it comes to determining what to do next when your horse is wounded.
Given the nature of horses and the type of work they undertake it is not surprising that they are perhaps more prone to accidental injury than other animals. It is therefore important that when your horse suffers a cut or knock, the assessment and intervention you employ is timely and correct to try and avoid unnecessary complications further down the line. Many problematic wounds can be avoided if a stepwise and logical approach is employed at the outset of treatment.
Although the understanding of wound healing has advanced tremendously in the past few years there is still no one way to treat or manage all wounds. Many factors such as how old the wound is, where it is, whether it is bleeding, the involvement of other structures such as joints and the problem of flies, change how each individual wound should be managed.
The first step in managing any wound is to assess the risk the wound presents to the horse. A wound that is merely oozing small quantities of blood or serum may be a lot less severe in the short term than a wound that is bleeding profusely. The risk in this instance comes from the amount of blood potentially lost by your horse if bleeding is severe and profuse.
If a small wound is overlying a joint, it may however pose a greater risk to your horse in the long term than if damage has occurred to any joint structures. The risk in this case arises from the possibility of infection establishing within the joint, which can ultimately lead to the destruction of an otherwise healthy animal.
Generally, with fresh cuts your prime concern will be stemming any blood flow and deciding upon the potential severity of the wound. With old cuts, the decision process often revolves around deciding if the cut is infected and if you need to call the vet to assess the need for antibiotics.
One way of assessing a wound’s potential to cause problems is to classify them according to the wound. Treatment can then be instigated in a logical manner. You may also wish to use the flow chart below to assist decision making when your horse cuts itself. Remember the treatment of old cuts and scrapes is somewhat different to that of fresh cuts and an approach is detailed in the flow chart.
Adapted from a protocol by D. Knottenbelt.
Important: If in doubt at any stage, please seek veterinary advice.
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