Treating Horse Wounds

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How to Care for Horse Wounds

Horse owners and handlers should be prepared for wound and injury care. Horses can get hurt or injured in the normal course of the day from sources that include fencing, gates, trees or shrubs, and even other horses. If there is bleeding, pressure should be applied to stop the blood flow. If not, the wound should be kept clean until a veterinarian arrives.

  • Minor scrapes and abrasions that do not penetrate the skin can usually be treated by cleaning them with clean water or sterile saline. Thick, greasy ointments should not be used as they can prevent drainage and encourage dirt and debris to stick to the wound. Dry, spray-on, non-caustic dressings can also be used.
  • Lacerations that penetrate through all skin layers and into the muscle layers require veterinary attention. Lacerations above the knee or hock, where there is loose skin, may be sutured, or stitched, if the wound is clean. Dirty wounds with tissue damage should not be sutured. These wounds must be cleaned daily and kept free of flies or other insects.
  • Lacerations below the knee or hock often cannot be sutured, especially if there is contamination and tissue damage. These types of wounds require daily bandaging, cleaning and dressing until the wound is healed. 
  • A deep puncture wound can be very serious. Foreign objects and bacteria can result in infection. The wound must be kept clean and drained. In addition, veterinarians often prescribe injectable antibiotics. If a foreign object is in the wound, it must be removed. This object should be left in place until a veterinarian arrives so that it can be carefully removed without causing further injury or bleeding.
  • Wounds that occur at a joint, such as the hock, knee or pastern, often do not heal well. The motion of the legs can pull the wound edges apart each time the joint moves. These types of wounds require bandaging to limit joint motion and allow the wound edges to heal.


The wound should always be properly cleaned with a product recommended by your veterinarian, prior to bandaging. Bandages that are applied to the lower leg require several layers:

  1. A sterile absorbent dressing and/or gauze pad applied directly to the wound, usually with a pad held in place with stretch gauze. The dressing or gauze pad should be large enough to cover the entire wound.
  2. Padding in the form of a quilt, no bow or gamgee to protect and cushion the boney and protruding parts of the limb. 
  3. Wrapping material, such as vet wrap or a rolled bandage to keep the padding in place. This should be applied with some tension in order to keep pressure on the wound.
  4. A method to keep the bandage in place, such as duct tape or Velcro.

Bandages must be properly applied to be effective in treating a wound and preventing damage to the structures of the limb.

Watch this video by Equine Guelph for steps on how to wrap a horse’s lower leg:

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