Horses are adept at finding ways of injuring themselves. Thankfully, most of the time, it’s minor injuries like a scrape or an abrasion.
Evaluating the severity of the injury is the first step to addressing the issue. Gently feel around the wounded area to determine if it feels flat and somewhat flush with surrounding skin. If so, it’s likely an abrasion, a situation you can treat on your own. If you feel a flap or uneven area that might indicate a deeper wound, call your veterinarian.
An abrasion implies that the top surface of the skin has been “abraded” away, taking with it some hair and a portion of the outermost epidermis. This kind of wound, one that has not penetrated deeper beneath the external skin surface, is usually fairly innocuous over most parts of the horse’s body. It is important to determine with certainty that you are dealing only with a superficial abrasion and not a deeper wound, particularly over or around a joint or tendon area.
Good first aid relies on cleanliness, which is achieved by:
- Trimming or clip away the overlying and surrounding hair so you can more closely inspect the wound.
- Scrubbing it with antiseptic soap (chlorhexidine or tamed iodine) and rinse well.
- Applying a topical, water-based wound ointment if it appears to only be a gouge in the most superficial skin layers. Triple antibiotic ointment, silver sulfadiazine cream, or chlorhexidine cream are all good choices.
- Using fly spray around the wound, but not directly over it, to keep insects from irritating the tender tissue. Or, you can cover it from contamination and insects by using an aluminum spray as a topical “band-aid.”
Unless the abrasion is in an area that a horse might keep hitting with his leg, there is no need to bandage a superficial abrasion. Keep an eye on the area until it is completely healed, and call your veterinarian if swelling, heat, or pus appear at the wound site.
By Nancy S. Loving, DVM