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Any form of wounds, even the tiny ones (puncture wounds) should not be overemphasized in the horse. Vital structures such as tendons, joints, major vessels and nerves are just under the skin in the horse limbs, no muscle or other soft tissue protection are at that level.
If a major blood vessel has been severed, it is easy for the horse to lose a substantial amount of blood. If a joint or a tendon sheath is involved in a wound producing a direct communication to the environment could result in a career or life ending injury. So, that’s why is very important to call us right away as soon as you see a laceration over or nearby the areas mentioned above. Early intervention can make the difference of a full recovery, ending carrier or even death for your horse.
The Dr. will clean the area and assess the wound and see if any vital structures were penetrated using different diagnostic techniques such as direct palpation, joint lavages, contrast radiographs and ultrasound exams.
Perhaps for you it seems that the usage of many diagnostic tools for a tiny wound would be over killing but we need to be 100% sure that no vital structures are involved.
Cleaning the area is performed in most cases by clipping the hair around the wound. We use a sterile lubricating gel (such as K-Y jelly) to cover the wound to prevent contamination with hair. Then the lubricant can be removed with sterile saline or water. If the wound is not grossly contaminated we use highly diluted antiseptics because otherwise they kill the healthy tissue cells we need for healing. Saline does not harm the tissues and delivered under high pressure it has a mechanical cleaning effect. We use saline under high pressure to remove debris and bacteria from the wound with a 60cc syringe connected to an 18g needle.
There are different phases in wound healing and understanding them is very important for veterinarians because each phase should be treated differently. In general, is important to cover and keep the wound moist. The horse is very prone to develop proud flesh and bandaging the wound prevents contamination and provides pressure to avoid over growth of the granulation tissue.
Wound care tips until your Dr. arrives
When your horse suffers a wound in an extremity, the first thing to do is to clean it or keep it clean. If it’s grossly contaminated with dirt, shavings or similar you should hose it down, remove with a 4x4’s gauze the dirt and then cover it, with sterile or at least clean gauze over the wound and then bandage it with a clean bandage. Ideally making a layer of cotton and then bandage it with brown bandage or otherwise any bandage like a standing wrap.
If the wound is in an area that cannot be bandage, clean it and keep the horse in a clean area and avoid it to lie down until the Dr. arrives.