Basic First Aid
WOUND MANAGEMENT IN HORSES
Important POINTS to remember to tell the vet:
- Where is the wound.
- What overall condition is the horse in (is it laying down growning or standing happily eating)
- Is the horse lame
- How long ago did the wound occur
- Do you know what caused the wound
- What is your horse usually used for (i.e. is it a performance horse, or a brood mare)
As a general rule… if the wound is fresh and you are seeking veterinary attention, do not put anything onto the wound. Just apply a clean moistened piece of cloth or gauze material, straight onto the wound and then finish with a clean bandage to hold in place. The moistened cloth keeps the wound fresh and viable, while the bandage will temporarily protect the tissue and any important underlying structures.
If the wound requires stitching it is best to seek veterinary attention within 6 to 10 hours of the injuring occurring. This means the tissue will have the greatest chance of healing with sutures in place.
Any wound that you believe may be close to penetrating or affecting a joint (eg knee, fetlock, hock, stifle, pastern), IS an emergency and definitely requires veterinary attention!!!
Wounds that occur to the lower limb in horses are extremely prone to developing excess granulation tissue or proud flesh. This can be managed/helped to be prevented in the following ways:
- After the initial healing period of the wound, and it looks as though tissue has completely filled in the deficit, you can begin to start using certain lotions straight onto the granulation tissue (eg prednoderm cream, yellow lotion) and then a firm pressure bandage applied to the wound. The pressure along with the lotion aids in the prevention of proud flesh.
- If the proud flesh protrudes above the skin’s surface, further veterinary attention will need to be sought. The veterinarian will excise off the excess tissue to an acceptable level and then apply a lotion and a pressure bandage.
- In extreme and/or select cases a veterinarian may find it necessary to apply a distal limb cast to a wound that requires complete stability and or in complicated cases with excessive proud flesh.
Routinely all horses that suffer a wound injury will require a tetanus booster and antitoxin (2 shots – Tetanus Antitoxin (TAT) and Toxoid (TT)), and a course of penicillin. With severe wounds/injuries, further or different antibiotics may be required.
POST SURGERY WOUND AND HORSE CARE
Dear Horse Owner,
Your horse may have had a procedure that involves internal and skin sutures during surgery and therefore needs care for sometime after the event .A drain may have been inserted to help remove hair , dirt and puss from wound . Unfortunately Horse’s do not always understand that they must rest so we need you to assist us with Horse ’s recovery.
When you pick your horse up from our hospital he/she may be a little drowsy. This is quite normal following an anaesthetic and surgery. As long as your horse is standing and walking normally travel is OK- usually 4 to 5 hours post surgery.
Please ensure all antibiotics and anti inflammatory are used as per instructions – failure to complete course will encourage drug resistance and may cause failure of healing .
Pressure bandaging of legs helps control bleeding initially and proud flesh subsequently as well as keeping wound clean .Severe leg wounds may need dressing for at least 6 weeks .
What to do
Keep Horse in a quiet, warm place . Paddock activity may result in break down of sutures or slow wound healing – keep confined as per instructions .
Change dressing every day for first 4 to 5 days , important to hose wound clean , reapply ointment (dermaclean or yellow lotion )and use 2 to3 layers of combine dressing then apply bandage firmly to leg ( Ointment will keep wound moist , encourage growth of new skin cells ,destroy necrotic and proud flesh cells , firm bandage will reduce proud flesh ).Important to bandage all the way to pastern to prevent swelling below wound when firm pressure bandage is used.
After 4 days can leave bandage on for 2 to 3 days , if proud flesh present when changing dressing may need to scrape wound with blunt knife and apply lotogen or coppersulphate to wound . NOTE lotogen and coppersulphate cuts proud flesh back but will destroy new skin cells so use to effect and not for prolonged periods ..
Bandages will stink but this is generally OK.If in doubt change more frequently.
Generally Penecillin is first choice antibiotic , given twice a day into the muscle for 5 to 7 days.
In severe infections a second antibiotic ( Gentamycin )may be prescribed . Gentamycin is given into the blood stream via the jugular vein . It is given once daily and may require horse to be hospitalized for this treatment.
There are oral antibiotics available but are less effective initially in combating infection.
Bute paste, granules or injection help reduce inflammatory response to trauma and surgery and thus reduce swelling and pain. Phenylbutazone , the active chemical of bute, is irritant to horse stomach lining causing gastric ulcers.
When using Bute for periods over 5 days or in young horses Gastrozol should be used to protect stomach lining.
Tetanus Toxin and Tetanus Antitoxoid
It is recommended that both of the above are given to non vaccinated horses. Although in theory they act against each other, if given into the muscle at neck and rump , they will give immediate and prolonged protection to Tetanus.A follow up vaccination with tetanus toxin is recommended in 4 weeks time.
Most Horse’s will feel good within a few days. Unfortunately this does have some disadvantages in that Horse may start jumping, running around and generally trying to do everything that he/she can to upset the surgery and / or sutures. Please try to keep Horse as quiet as possible until the sutures are removed
or wound closed . Generally 10 days is critical time for suture failure – if held for 10 days should be OK.
Some signs to watch for that may indicate a problem.
- Dull and listless (especially after the first 24 hours)
- Red or irritated around the suture line , unfortunately horses are very prone to suture line breakdown due to poor blood supply and tissue movement .
- Swelling or lumpiness around suture.
If you notice any of these signs please do not hesitate to call our clinic. We are interested in
Horse ’s well being so please feel free to use us.
Note: Horse will need drain taken out in 5 days.
Note: Horse will need sutures taken out in 14 days.
Note: Horse will need bandaging changed daily for 3 days then every 2 to 3 days
NoteHorse will need to finish all medications prescribed.
What is big head?
Big head is a calcium deficiency of horses and donkeys grazing on introduced tropical pasture species. This is caused by crystals of calcium oxalate in the grass blades that prevent the horse or donkey from absorbing calcium from the pass during digestion. Cattle and sheep are not affected: their rumen bacteria break down oxalates and release die cal-aunt for absorption.
The signs of big head include:
• lameness—animals appear stiff and have a shortened gait
• illthrift—loss of condition on pastures which look nutritious
• swollen jawbones—upper jaws, lower jaws or both. Some or all horses on a pasture may develop big head
The disease can develop within 2 months of horses being put on hazardous pastures but commonly takes 6 to 8 months. Mares and foals are more susceptible than stallions and geldings, but all can get the disease.
Which grasses are hazardous?
Cases of big head have occurred on pastures of the introduced tropical species buffel grass, green panic, setana, Kikuyu. guinea pass, pan grass. pangola pass and signal grass. Purple pigeon grass is also hazardous. The hazard is greatest when these grasses provide all, or almost all, the feed available. Native grasses have not caused the disease. Introduced temperate pasture e.g. rye grass and the sorghums have not caused big bead.
How can big head be prevented?
Use native pastures where possible. Avoid grazing horses or donkeys on the grasses listed above for long periods. Some introduced tropical pastures are non-hazardous. They include Rhodes pasture, the paspalums, the couches and creeping blue pass.
If only hazardous grasses are available, encourage the growth of a legume component in the pasture to provide a source of feed free of oxalate, and feed a calcium and phosphorus supplement.
Mineral and supplement mixtures which will provide tbe required amount of calcium and phosphorus for horses
• 1 kg rock phosphate mixed with l.5 kg molasses
• 1 kg of a mixture of 1/3 ground limestone and 2/3 dicalcium phosphate (DCP) mixed with 1.5 kg molasses.
Either of these should be fed to each horse once a week while sparing hazardous pasture. The molasses is used as a carrier at to make the supplement attractive. It can be omitted if the animals can be persuaded to eat all the minerals by other means. Do not be concerned if your horses or donkeys eat their week’s supplement in 1 or 2 days. It contains enough mineral to last them the full week. You may divide up the weekly amount and feed it each day if you wish.
Because of their smaller size, donkeys can be fed a proportionately smaller amount of supplement.
To provide approximately the same amount of calcium and phosphorus as the above mineral mixture. 20 kg of good quality lucerne would need to be fed to each horse weekly. Other mineral mixes which provide a calcium:
phosphorus ratio of 2:l can be used but are likely to be more expensive than rock phosphate or ground limestone & DCP.
Can big head be cured?
The lameness and illthrift can be cured. The swellings of the jaws may not fully disappear if the animal was severely affected. Double the amount of the mineral supplements above should be fed to affected animals for at least 6 months to replace the mineral lost from their bones.
Intravenous injections ( I/V )
- ALWAYS consult veterinary before attempting I/V injections
- Use 21g Green-hub needle with bevel pointing towards skin surface.
- Where possible, disinfect the injection site with an appropriate disinfectant/alcohol-based product.
- Place thumb on jugular groove below planned injection site to occlude the jugular vein, (vein fills with blood and becomes visible/easier to inject into).
- Insert needle through skin at 30-45 degree, up to the hub.
- Draw back on syringe to ensure needle is in vein, (blood should flow easily into syringe).
- Remove thumb from vein and inject contents of syringe slowly, holding hub of needle firmly in place against skin.
- Whilst injecting watch injection site, as the area will swell/rise if needle is not actually in the vein. If this is the case, remove needle and re-insert.
- After injection, remove needle and syringe and hold pressure on site for 15-20 seconds.
- If horse is playing up, take needle off syringe and insert.
Intramuscular injections (I/M )
- Use 18g Pink-hub needle.
- Always draw back on syringe before inserting to ensure not in a blood vessel. If any sign of blood enters the hub of the needle/syringe, remove needle and try another site.
- Rotate the injection sites for each injection, (injection sites are both sides of neck and both rumps). Use the same pattern each time to form a routine, (eg. Left neck - left rump - right rump - right neck.
- Rump: Insert needle without syringe. Desensitise the area by 3-4 solid ‘thumps’ with fist before inserting needle to the hub. Draw back on needle!!!
- Neck: Apply a skin-twitch over the muscular area of the neck, slide needle/syringe in under the skin-fold (helps to desensitize the area).Draw back on needle!!!
- Never reuse any needles for subsequent injections!!!
- Never reuse any syringe that has been used for intravenous injections!!!
- When giving intramuscular injections, place the syringe and needle just used back in the fridge with the penicillin. This syringe is able to be reused for subsequent injections, ensuring a new needle is placed on syringe before the drug is drawn from the bottle each time.