Emergency Treatment Of A Catastrophic Wound

In mid-September the practice received an emergency call to a horse with a catastrophic wound obtained in the field. Learn more about the immediate concerns for this type of wound and the treatment administered

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On arrival the horse was in shock with a significant wound stretching from its hock to fetlock exposing a portion of its bone. First aid treatment was given to the horse for the wound to be investigated further.

The three immediate concerns with a wound so extensive are:

  • Communication with a joint capsule
  • Fracture of the bone
  • Tendon involvement or laceration.


Thankfully, the wound was investigated with radiographs and ultrasound examination to confirm there was no communication with any of the important structures or fractures of the bone.

After extensive debridement and cleaning of the wound, the long process of wound healing began. The wound was successfully bandaged three times weekly for six weeks.

The key purposes of bandaging in this case were:

  • To decrease contamination of the wound
  • To create a moist environment for a healthy bed of granulation tissue to form
  • To immobilise the area reducing the likelihood of proud flesh forming
  • To help decrease healing time and increase its quality.

Wounds of this magnitude can often be troublesome at the final stages of healing; white hairs commonly form and occasionally skin grafts are required if hair follicles fail to return to the area. Success rates of skin grafts are dependent on the area, with the lower limb being particularly difficult.

After eight weeks of hard work and dedication from the owners, the wound had healed over and contracted down to a small slither of
scar tissue. With a strict 8-12 week exercise programme in place the horse is making a full recovery and will be able to return to its normal level of work.

Out of hours emergency

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