Before You Call the Vet – How to Triage a Significant Wound

by Jordan Manfredi
By Paige Cerulli Have you ever walked out to the pasture to find your horse wounded and bleeding? Did you know how to handle the situation, or did you panic a bit? It’s so important for every horse owner to know how to triage a significant wound or injury until the vet can arrive. Serious wounds or injuries are likely to occur in the spring, since your horse has been on limited turnout and pastures tend to be muddy and slick. If your horse ever has a serious wound or injury, the steps that you take before you call the vet can have a major effect on his prognosis. Assess the Injury
PC: Paige Cerulli PC: Paige Cerulli
When you find that your horse is injured, carefully assess the injury before you take any action. By collecting details about whether your horse can stand comfortably, whether there is a wound which is actively bleeding, and whether any bones appear to be broken, you can better decide on what your next steps should be. It’s also important to look for signs that your horse is going into shock, such as pale gums, poor coordination, and unresponsiveness. Don’t Move the Horse In many cases, it’s best to not move your horse until the full extent of his injury is known. This is particularly true of wounds – moving the horse may start or increase the severity of the bleeding. If your horse is in a fairly safe location, then try to keep him calm and in place until the vet can help assess the situation. Stop Any Bleeding
PC: Paige Cerulli PC: Paige Cerulli
If your horse has a significant wound which is actively bleeding, then your first task should be to stop the bleeding. If your horse will let you, then try to apply steady, firm pressure to the wound using a clean towel. You can also wrap an ice pack in a towel, or cold hose the areas around more minor wounds. The cold helps to restrict blood flow to the area, slowing and eventually stopping the bleeding. If your horse is profusely bleeding from a leg, then you may need to apply a tourniquet. You should tie the tourniquet around your horse’s leg, above where the bleeding is occurring, in order to restrict blood flow and slow your horse’s blood loss. Old bicycle inner tubes work well as tourniquets, but you can also use a strip of towel or a standing bandage in a pinch. Leave Foreign Objects In Place In some cases, your horse may have a foreign object in a wound, such as some bark or even a piece of wood or fencing. As tempting as it may be to remove the object right away, doing this can reduce pressure in the wound and may cause substantial bleeding. Leave any foreign objects in your horse until the vet can arrive to remove them. Call the Vet Once you have your horse somewhat stable, call the vet and describe the situation in detail. Be sure to identify whether your horse appears to be going into shock, and if possible, give your vet an estimate of how much blood your horse may have lost. If you can see any signs of broken bones or other serious injuries, describe them to your vet. Your vet may have additional suggestions of actions you can take until he or she arrives. Most important of all, do your best to stay calm when a serious injury occurs. You can prepare yourself for an emergency by keeping a well-stocked first-aid kit in your barn containing wound care items and emergency supplies like instant ice packs and bandaging materials. While we hope that you never need this advice, being prepared for a serious situation means that you’re better able to deal with one should it ever occur.

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