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Wound Care:

Things to do

Wounds on the lower limbs of horses can be

especially difficult to manage because of

poor circulation, joint movement and minimal

soft tissue between skin and bone. There is

also a risk of contamination from the

environment and, once a decision has been

made on who will manage the wound,

treatment can begin.

1. Wound Cleaning.

The initial goal when preparing a wound for

primary treatment is to decrease the threat of

infection by cleaning the wound. If possible,

hair near the wound edges should be

removed prior to cleaning. A water soluble

sterile gel should be applied to the wound to

keep hair and debris from contaminating the


2. Debridement.

Often wounds are not discovered for a few

hours and portions of traumatised

tissue may start to die. Devitalised and

necrotic tissue may have to be surgically

removed in order to facilitate healing.

Honey dressings are often used to aid


3. Bandaging types and


These play a critical role in managing

wounds. Creating a moist wound healing

environment is paramount to promote

wound healing. Many wound issues can

be resolved through a good bandaging


4. The aim.

The bandage protects the wound from

contamination, provides a moist wound

healing environment, reduces swelling

and bleeding, and also stabilises or

immobilises the area.

Wound care:

Things not to do

When dealing with wounds lots of people

have their own ideas, thoughts, lotions,

potions and powders to help get wounds to

heal. Many recipes have been handed down

over the years and lots of commercial

products are now available from tack and

feed suppliers. Some claim to have amazing

healing properties. The fact is, most wounds

will heal anyway, regardless of what we put

on them, as long as they are not being

delayed by certain factors

(figures five, six

and seven)



When cleaning a wound, using dilute

chlorhexidine (HiBiScrub, Molnlycke Health

Care) within the first six hours prevents

bacteria from multiplying and can buy you

and the vet some time if the wound needs

stitching. However, bathing a granulating

(healing) wound with chlorhexidine can

delay the healing process as it will inhibit the

collagen matrix as the wound tries to close

itself from the edges. Plain water or a salt

solution is better.


Don’t be tempted to apply blue spray,

wound powder or any other wound

preparations, as the vet will just have to

wash them all off again to examine it.

Vaseline should also be avoided.

Anything that is oil based will delay

healing as it inhibits fibroblast (immature cell)

migration across the wound. Oil based

preparations should only be used on intact

skin for scars. If in doubt, just wash with

clean water or use a hosepipe with gentle

pressure, apply a sterile (if possible) dressing

and call your vet.

5. Reinforcement:

Apply a layer of duct tape to the toe of a

foot dressing. This will help keep the

bandage clean and dry, and should

prevent the bandage from wearing away

in the toe area.

6. Prepare:

Ensure all bandage materials are ready

before you start. This means swift

application and maintaining cleanliness.

7. Bandage up:

It is important to start at the bottom of the

leg and work your way upwards, as this

will reduce the risk of the bandage


(figure four)


8. Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Apply the bandage starting at the front of

the limb and work towards the back. Be

aware this changes depending on the

way you hold the bandage and on the


9. Check:

Make sure your bandage isn’t too tight.

You should be able to easily fit a finger

down the side.

10. Practice makes perfect:

Don't forget to practice before you need

to bandage in an emergency as it feels a

bit cumbersome to start with!

Figure four. Work your way upwards to reduce the risk of the bandage slipping

Figure five. Wounds can occur

anywhere on the body. This nostril

wound would not heal neatly without

stitches due to its exposed location.

Figure six. Mid repair. The nostril has

had an internal layer of absorbable

sutures placed to make the repair more

robust and resilient during healing.

Figure seven. After repair. The ends

of the stitches are buried to create

less irritation during healing