Flushing Equine Wounds: The First Step in Treatment

Thoroughly rinsing a wound is a critical first step in keeping infection at bay.
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Thoroughly rinsing a wound is a critical first step in keeping infection at bay.

When your horse sustains a minor skin wound, your first impulse may be to spread antibiotic cream or ointment on the area. Hold off on the medications for a moment, however, and instead reach for the hose.

Your barn hose can be as useful for treating wounds as any ointment or bandage.

Your barn hose can be as useful for treating wounds as any ointment or bandage.

Flushing a wound with plain water is one of the best ways to prevent infection. (Isotonic saline solution, which you can purchase at most drug stores, is even better because it is a little easier on tissues than plain water. But from a practical standpoint, water straight from the hose is perfectly fine for your horse's wounds.)

Spend plenty of time rinsing the wound---continue for about twice as long as you think you should---and well after all the obvious 'dirt' has been removed. Keep in mind something that veterinarians often say: 'Dilution is the solution to pollution.' In other words, the more you flush a wound, the more pathogens You'll remove, lowering the risk of infection.

When you're done, take a close look for signs of dirt, grass, gravel or other foreign objects. Use a flashlight if it helps. If you see anything unusual, flush the wound again and recheck. If you can't see the entire depth of the wound, call your veterinarian; deep puncture wounds are notorious for harboring dangerous infections. Of course, visible bone, deep contamination or significant wounds over joints also merit a call to the veterinarian.

Once you're certain the wound is as clean as possible, consider applying a wound gel or ointment. But be sure to use a water-based product: If there's any chance the wound will need stitches, the ointment must be easy to remove.