The Dos and Don'ts of Equine First Aid
Every horse owner has experienced a horse that has injured itself on anything from fencing, barbed wire, branches to even protruding screws around the stall. Horses will step on something, run into other things or even get stuck somewhere. It is important to be able to provide some basic first aid for your horse before the vet arrives.
The first step is to decide if the vet needs to be called. If the wound or laceration is large or deep, call the vet. Other things to look for with an injured horse; Is the horse lame? Is the injury near a tendon or joint? Is the wound near or involving the eye? If you answered yes to any of these questions, call the vet in.
Making sure your horse is safe from tetanus is something that can be taken care of during your horse's semi-annual vaccinations. Having the tetanus shot up to date, can keep a simple puncture wound from becoming a deadly bacterial infection.
Avoid trying to clean the wound by brushing debris from the injury site or clipping hair from around the injury site's perimeter. These measures may contaminate the site and lead to secondary infection. If the site needs to be flushed out, use a simple saline solution or povidone iodine (Betadine). Povidone Iodine will kill any bacteria or fungus from around the wound. Avoid using any type of surgical scrub in the povidone iodine; these solutions have added soaps which might cause harm in the surrounding exposed tissues. Do not use any alcohol based antiseptics to flush out the wound. Alcohol can irritate the horse's wound and cause a sudden kick out toward the rescuer. If the vet will arrive within a couple of hours, there is no need to flush the injury site. Flush the injury site only to avoid drying.
Do not use hydrogen peroxide on wounds. Hydrogen peroxide will destroy surrounding tissue.
If the wound will not stop bleeding on its own, apply a thick bandage. Having a supply of sterile 4×4 gauze bandages is always a good idea. Never apply a tourniquet.
If you find that the puncture or abrasion is minor and the vet will not be called, you can proceed with these additional first aid steps:
- Flush the wound with povidone iodine (10%)
- Apply an antiseptic ointment such as Neosporin
- Do not bandage the site
- Monitor the wound site for secondary infections.