First Aid for Wounds

The common types of wounds are skin incisions, lacerations, tears, punctures, penetration and abrasions. Horses and ponies commonly receive cuts to their limbs and face – most of these can be dealt with using simple first aid, but others will require veterinary attention. Some factors to consider when looking at wounds are

  • Rough estimation of age of wound

  • Bleeding present

  • Type of wound – incision, puncture etc.

  • Location of wound is it over a joint or tendon sheath.

  • Tetanus cover.

  • Is it contaminated?

If the wound appears deep, large or involves a flap of skin that you think could be stitched, then call for veterinary assistance. 

If there is excessive bleeding apply direct pressure to the wound, using gamgee/cotton wool held in place by a bandage. Once the bleeding has ceased the wound can then be gently cleaned with water or dilute antiseptic solution and assessed. Strong detergents such as Savlon or Dettol should not be used.

Wounds that are not actively bleeding can be cleaned with a hose – this will help to remove any surface dirt/contamination and also help to minimise swelling.  Once cleaned, if the area is suited to being bandaged, a non-stick dressing should be applied and kept in place using gamgee/cotton wool and a self-adhesive bandage.  Bandaging the wound will help to prevent it from drying out and will also keep it clean – especially important if stitching is required.

Any wound which penetrates the full thickness of the skin, especially on the eyelids, nose, face or limbs, should be seen by the vet, as the majority of these may be stitchable.  Smaller wounds can be left unsutured and using basic first aid they will heal well.  If a wound is to be sutured it should be done within six hours, as leaving it any longer allows for infection and swelling to occur.

Any wounds adjacent to or over joints or tendon sheaths require veterinary attention.  These wounds may penetrate directly into the joint. Infected joints/sheaths are emergencies and need to be identified and dealt with quickly – it may be necessary to take a sample of fluid from the joint to asses whether it is infected or not.

Puncture wounds unfortunately carry the possibility of damage to deeper structures and are likely to become infected – these usually require veterinary attention.

Most abrasions and grazes will heal without complication once kept clean and are not likely to require bandaging.

Once the vet has evaluated the wound they will discuss with you the bandaging and treatment regime. Wounds are very variable and the precise treatment depends on the location, age and degree of contamination of the wound. 

Any wound has the potential to become infected with the tetanus causing bacteria Clostridium tetani, that causes tetanus; therefore it is important to keep up to date with regular vaccination. If your horse is not covered then the vet will administer tetanus anti- toxin to your horse to help prevent tetanus.

If you are not sure about the significance of a wound that your horse has sustained then please feel free to ring the practice and seek advice to determine if your horse requires a visit.

Bandage materials to include in your first aid kit

  • Non-adhesive sterile dressings e.g. Melonin                

  • Self adhesive dressing e.g. Vetrap Antiseptic solution (Iodine, Chlorhexidine, Hibiscrub)             

  • Cotton wool or gamgee


The material contained in this website is presented for information purposes only . The material is in no way intended to replace professional veterinary care or attention from a professional veterinary surgeon. 

The advice given in any of our web pages cannot be used as the basis for a diagnosis or choice of treatment.

Clyde Vet Group advises that you should always consult a veterinary surgeon about any queries with animals under your care.

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