Horses seem to have developed a degree in incurring wounds and both veterinarians and horse owners are faced with an armoury of products that have long been used to treat them. When faced with a wound it is important to understand what each product does and what effects it will have on the wound.
Whatever we apply to the wound should ideally do no harm but also speed up the healing process.
Before cleaning agents are applied we must first ask the question;
“Is it better to clip the surrounding hair from around the wound edges to prevent further contamination and to allow ease of cleaning for the duration of the treatment?”
Use gauze or cotton wool to apply gentle pressure to remove contamination from the wound. Water pressure if too high can be detrimental to the wound healing and the pressure of a gentle shower is sufficient.
Hibiscrub / Chlorhexidine
“Hibi” is a popular component of most equine first aid kits. It has low toxicity so is a good first line cleaning agent but should not be used to excess. Some bacteria can still grow through it.
This is another preparation that has been the mainstay of surgical scrubs for many years. It is also found within many wound dressings.
Saline is a simple but very effective product, and is ideal for lavaging contaminated wounds to flush out and reduce the bacterial load. Hypertonic saline has also proved very useful.
Thanks to its fizzing and bubbling action, hydrogen peroxide looks very impressive on a wound. However its benefits are negligible.
The very low pH of acetic acid makes a hostile environment within the wound preventing certain bacteria such as pseudomonas becoming established. It’s advised that it is applied to the wound on cotton wool or a gauze swab for twenty minutes and then rinsed off.
Intrasite is a gel-based product. It rehydrates the tissue which speeds up the natural debridement of the wound, and it absorbs the slough and exudate that the wound produces. It provides an optimal environment to allow wound closure. It doesn’t stick to or harm the wound, nor have any effect on normal healthy tissue around it, making it an ideal product.
Silver has been shown to be effective against bacterial agents, and is a component of flamazine cream but is also found in many dressings.
Vulketan is a new product which aims to prevent the excessive growth of granulation tissue which can be a big problem in a lot of equine wounds. When used appropriately it can encourage large wounds to heal. It should never be used on a bleeding wound as it will exacerbate the haemorrhage.
Honey derived from Manuka plants has been shown to have an antimicrobial effect, as it draws the water out of bacterial cells. This means that honey can be very helpful for mucky infected wounds.
Oxytetracycline is a very useful antibiotic for treating skin infections. Spraying it directly onto the area (“blue spray”) allows the drug to be specifically targeted to put the antibiotic exactly where it is needed. It also avoids having to persuade a horse to take oral medication!
Sprays containing aluminium are also used. They deposit a thin layer of aluminium powder onto the wound which forms a waterproof barrier to keep the bugs out. This makes it ideal for horses that are living out.