Wounds and Lacerations:
Horses are notorious for getting themselves cut or wounded. Many wounds are uncomplicated and will heal without much attention. However, there are definitely wounds and lacerations that require a veterinarian’s attention.
Perhaps one of the most important pieces of information to be aware of is the status of your horse’s tetanus vaccine. Horses are incredibly susceptible to tetanus which is usually deadly. If your horse has sustained a wound or laceration and has not had a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last 12 months, that needs to be addressed.
Wounds that occur near a joint or synovial sheath need to be explored to determine if the joint or tendon sheath is involved. If these important structures are involved, the wound is potentially life threatening. The best way to determine if the wound communicates with an important structure, such as a joint, is to have the veterinarian place a sterile needle into the joint and distend the structure with sterile saline. If saline starts to exit through the wound, it communicates. If this happens, the joint needs to be treated aggressively.
Many fresh lacerations may be able to be sutured closed. This should be done within the first few hours of the injury. Many considerations are weighed when deciding whether or not to primarily close a wound and it is important to discuss these with the veterinarian. There may be a very good reason NOT to close the wound. It is also important to have the veterinarian examine the extent of the wound (for example, are x-rays indicated?).
Horses are also very prone to getting exuberant granulation tissue on wounds on their limbs, otherwise known as Proud Flesh. This is typically treated by “trimming” the tissue back so it is below the level of the surrounding intact skin. Although it bleeds profusely, the horse does not feel this because the tissue is without innervations.
It is always best to have a veterinarian examine the wound and help decide what the best course of action is for each individual case.