There are different types of wounds that can occur with horses, the correct first aid procedure is essential. Always have some first aid items on hand in the stable yard or float or truck, keep calm and assess the situation.
A WOUND OF ANY SERIOUS NATURE OR SIZE WILL NEED VET ATTENTION – THESE NOTES ARE ONLY INTENDED TO ASSIST THE FIRST AID THAT CAN BE GIVEN UNTIL YOUR VET ARRIVES.
An open tear where the skin is cleanly cut with no skin flap can be washed with sterile saline solution as it is the optimum wash to clean cuts, tears or abrasions and it is essential to have some in your first aid kit. If you run out, or are in a place where there is no saline, flush the wounds with water from a hose. The goal in cleaning the wound by flushing with clean liquid is to wash away bacteria which might otherwise cause infection, so use plenty of fluid and sluice the wound, with a gentle flow not a blast. The edges of the wound need to be carefully treated as healing can be delayed if they are damaged. Finish by using Vetpro Antibacterial Gel to ensure the site is clean of any germs. The gel kills 99.9% of germs and contains Vitamin E and Aloe Vera to be kind to the skin. Note iodine is damaging to the skin cells close to the wound. If practically possible apply a non stick steripad dressing, or a paraffin gauze dressing some Gamgee padding and a bandage until the wound appears dry. Do not have the bandage too tight and once the wound is dry, remove the dressing then a topical cream such as Equifix will assist with healing. Do not bandage for too long, as this delays healing, the best option for a wound to heal is to have it in the open air. Daily gentle hosing to clean the wound and surrounding area and dry with a clean cloth or towel, gently rub off any debris and apply Equifix. If a wound has to be bandaged then it is important to keep it moist, using a hydrogel such as Vetalintex onto the wound itself, will provide a healing moist cover.
Puncture wounds are more serious than open wounds because they have depth, although a puncture wound in dense muscle is less worrisome than it would be on the chest, belly or lower leg, where it could compromise your horse’s internal organs or movement. Although it might appear small and without much bleeding a puncture wound needs to be assessed by a vet. However it is important to cleanse it, remove any foreign material and flush it out with a syringe and plenty of sterile saline. Puncture wounds should be left open to drain, but if necessary protect with a dressing and wait for the vet. The problem with a deep puncture is to check how far it may have penetrated and therefore what damage may have occurred to the underlying tissues, joint, organs etc. Also the wound has to heal from the inside first, so the entry point must be kept open. If it closes off too quickly it can trap germs inside (or foreign matter) and infection or an abscess may occur.
Abrasions usually occur when a horse falls and skids. If the wound is a simple abrasion you can probably take care of it yourself, but check to make sure there are no punctures, lacerations, broken bones or other more serious damage before treating the skin damage. It is important to clean the area well to remove any dirt, grass or other particles. Use the sterile saline for flushing the area and for a dirty graze use Robinsons Activ Scrub which contains Chlorhexidine which will kill any germs from the soil etc. If swelling is evident a cold pack can be applied, cool gel self-adhesive pad or aloe cool gel or an Artic Blast bandage depending on the site of the swelling. If the area is difficult to clean because of embedded dirt or grit then an Activate® charcoal poultice is ideal to draw out the contaminants. This can be held in place with padding and then a bandage. If it is a site on the body then cross strapping with an elastic adhesive bandage (white oxide adhesive) will adhere it to the skin.
Lacerations where the skin has been sliced so as to create a flap generally need vet attention to remove any excess skin flap or to stitch the wound back. As a first aid action, flush with saline and keep the area cold as this will improve the quality of the skin enabling it to be stitched. Put the skin flap back in place, then place a cold pack over and use padding, then bandage. It is important to protect the quality of the skin so do not use a disinfectant or iodine type solution. Keeping the area cold will improve the chances of successful stitching. Ice can damage skin, so put a cloth or dressing on before a cold pack (frozen peas are useful) until the vet arrives. Follow the vet’s instructions once the wound is stitched.
Extensive blood flow must be stopped as soon as possible by applying direct pressure, either with a pad pressed or strapped on – call for immediate veterinary support. A cold compress can assist to slow the flow. If caught out on a ride, create a pad from a handkerchief or some such and use a stirrup leather to create a firm strap over the pad, easier to hold than trying to apply direct pressure yourself. Spurting red flow is arterial and must be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Should a wound have been inadvertently missed and have become infected then a thorough washing and sluicing to remove all pus and debris. Use Activ Scrub to kill germs. Depending on the size and depth and extent of infection (ie if there is swelling of and/or heat in the area around the wound) it will be necessary to call the vet as antibiotics may be needed to control the infection, an infected wound of a joint is very serious. For all infected wounds use a poultice dressing such as Animalintex, then a pad of Gamgee and bandage on. Change the dressing every 24 hours and cleanse the wound, assess the amount of exudation on the dressing, it should diminish each time. Once there is no more smelly pus then treat as an open wound as above.