Q: How do I care for a wound?
A: As soon as you see that your horse has a fresh wound or has opened an old wound you need to evaluate the following:
- Is the wound bleeding profusely? If so, you need to phone your vet immediately.
- Where is the wound? Is it near to or above any important structures like joints or tendons, as in this instance your vet will also need to come and see the wound to assess it.
- Is your horse in a lot of pain? If he is lame, or clearly distressed, call your vet.
- Is the wound big? If so, phone your vet as they will most likely need to suture it.
In cases where a wound is bleeding profusely, such as is the case with an arterial haemorrhage, where blood spurts out of the wound under high pressure, immediate action is required. Firstly, you need to call your vet and then apply direct pressure to the wound until they arrive, using anything clean – a towel or stable bandage ideally. Hold this towel or bandage in place until the vet arrives. If the blood soaks through put another towel or bandage on top – do not remove the original as this will disrupt any clotting that has already started.
For superficial wounds you can clean them using the following steps. Remember to check the wound frequently and to call your vet if you have any concerns.
- To clean the wound, first make a weak solution of hibiscrub in some water. This should be about 12ml of hibiscrub per litre of water, just enough to turn the water slightly pink. If you don’t have hibiscrub available you can make a saline solution instead. This is easily done and can be made by adding a teaspoon of table salt to a pint of water.
- Soak a gauze pad in the hibiscrub and begin cleaning the wound. If you only have cotton wool, make sure you soak it to prevent any threads getting into the wound. Gently clean in one direction only to ensure you’re not putting any bacteria back into the cut.
- Once the wound is clean, allow it to try and apply a sterile dressing to it. Then, if you are still concerned, phone your vet. Remember to remove the dressing at least by the next day, to make sure it hasn’t got any worse.
By cleaning the wound you are giving your horse the best possible chance of it healing quickly and successfully. Do not be tempted to apply topical wound products, unless advised by your vet, as these can often irritate the wound and slow healing.
Note: If you don’t have hibiscrub or saline solution to hand, use a hosepipe and flush the wound with as much water as you can. You should hose the wound for 10 minutes and then apply a sterile dressing.