Shaping the future of animal health

Recognising the horse wound and its severity

Grazes or abrasionsGrazes or abrasions

A graze occurs when the top layers of skin and hair are damaged without the deeper layers of skin being involved. There is minimal bleeding and some yellow serum is often seen to seep from the grazed surface. Grazes are very seldom a serious problem.

Treatment involves cleaning the affected area followed by the application of antiseptic ointments such as SEPTICIDE® or antiseptic sprays such as CETRIGEN® on a daily basis until healing has occurred. These creams and sprays will assist the healing process and prevent infection from establishing and flies from settling on the wound.


Bruising occurs when a blow by a blunt object results in damage to blood vessels beneath the skin. This can occur when a horse runs into something, falls or is kicked. There is often no visible damage to the overlying skin and some bruising may be hard to detect due to the horse’s coat covering the area. Most bruises are not severe but consideration must be given to structures near to the bruise as they may have sustained damage too. For example, when a horse runs into a pole or other hard structure, bruising the shoulder area, there is often damage to the underlying nerves in this area too.

Where there is bruising without damage to underlying joints or nerves, cold hosing or the application of topical cooling gels such as RAPIGEL® can be used on the affected areas to aid in resolution of the bruising. (Take care not to apply RAPIGEL® to any area where the skin is broken.)


A contusion is a mixture of a graze and a bruise. They are relatively common over the eyes of horses that have had a bout of colic and traumatised this area whilst thrashing and rolling. Contusions can be managed by the use of antiseptic creams such as SEPTICIDE® in combination with the application of ice packs.

In some cases a contusion can become infected. If you suspect this to be the case, or the area is not healing as you would expect, it is best to call your vet. CETRIGEN® can be sprayed onto the contusion to provide antibacterial protection and assist in wound healing; however care should be taken to avoid spraying the sensitive areas around the eyes or mouth.

Blood blisters or haematomasBlood blisters or haematomas

These are slightly more severe forms of bruising and can be very large in horses. A haematoma is caused by haemorrhage from injured muscle. The blood accumulates beneath the skin resulting in a swelling, which may be the size of a golf ball or as large as a watermelon.

Some vets advocate draining them and others allow them to heal by themselves. If the haematoma is small and not bothering the horse they can be treated as a bruise with cold hosing and the application of RAPIGEL®. They must be monitored however to ensure they are getting better and not worsening. The treatment of large haematomas or ones in sensitive areas, (such as the penis or vulva) should be a left to your veterinary surgeon.

Puncture wounds

Puncture wounds are extremely common and potentially very serious. Unfortunately due to their size they are often overlooked until it is too late. This is because although the damage seen at skin level can look innocuous, the damage to deeper structures may be catastrophic.

Any puncture wound near a joint or through the sole or frog of the foot warrants calling your vet for further advice. Do not be tempted to remove a nail or other penetrating objects from a punctured foot unless directed to do so by your veterinarian.

If the puncture wound is not near a joint you may instigate first aid by hosing and flushing the area and subsequently applying antiseptics such as CETRIGEN®. Healing should then be monitored closely and the vet called if any lameness or discharge develops. Do not be tempted to give your horse ‘Bute’, as this may mask the signs associated with a serious puncture wound. A horse that is lame after sustaining a puncture wound has most probably sustained damage that you can not see from the outside and speedy intervention by a vet is needed in these situations.

Incised woundIncised wound

These wounds are ones where sharp metal or glass has cut the skin and are similar to a surgical wound created by a scalpel. The cut involves minimal tearing and it is normally easy to bring the wound edges together.

The amount of bleeding can be variable. If the wound is bleeding heavily, attempts should be made to stem the flow of blood using pressure applied with clean dressings or towels. Some of these wounds may require a stitch to hold them closed during healing and some may heel without stitches, provided the edges remain touching and movement is kept to a minimum.

If the wound is gaping, bleeding uncontrollably or involves other structures such as joints or tendons, the advice of a veterinarian should be sought. Whilst you are waiting for the vet to arrive you may begin flushing the wound using clean water from a hosepipe. This should be done for between five and ten minutes.

In the healing phases of the wound, flies may be kept at bay using products such as FLYAWAY®, CETRIGEN® or SEPTICIDE®.


Lacerations are common and occur when the skin is torn by something such as barbed wire. There may be multiple tears and other structures below the skin may be damaged concurrently. Treatment of lacerations is a matter for your veterinarian and they should be called in all circumstances. Hosing of the wound with clean water prior to your vet arriving is beneficial.

Again products such as FLYAWAY®, CETRIGEN® or SEPTICIDE® would be beneficial in the healing phases to deter disease-carrying flies and other insects from settling on the wound area.



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