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Wounds Requiring immediate care
Wounds Requiring immediate care


After being awakened at one o’clock in the morning, and sending the wife to check on the horses, you find that one of them has injured itself.  You then need to decide if the injury requires immediate attention or if it can wait until morning.

One of the wounds that will catch our attention is also one that must be seen on an emergency basis.  This is the wound that results in a large amount of blood loss.  If the blood is from an artery, the situation is more serious.  The blood will usually come out in spurts, corresponding to the beat of the horse’s heart.  Arterial blood is also bright red.  More blood will be pumped out of an artery due to pressure from the heart.

Blood escaping from a vein will ooze out.  It may appear to flow and is much darker in color.  Controlling blood loss from either the artery or vein is done the same way.  It is just that the artery will pump blood faster, and stopping it may be more difficult.

To stop the bleeding we both restrict the flow and help a clot to form.  By applying a sterile gauze over the wound, we provide the necessary rough surface for the fibers and cells to attach and start a clot.  A very small clot is all that is needed to start the clotting process, which will then proceed rapidly to cover the injured area.  By bandaging the wound with bulky materials such as cotton, and applying pressure over that, the blood flow is slowed to allow faster clotting.  If the wound is located where a bandage is not possible, we can hold a bandage over the wound to slow the flow.

Ultimately, the artery or vein will need to be tied off and the wound sutured.  While you are waiting for assistance to arrive, you can be pretty sure the horse will not bleed to death.  Only if the horse is anemic would clotting not occur.  As a rule of thumb, a clot the size of our fist equals a pint of blood.  Blood and fluids make up seven percent of the horse, so a 1,000 pound horse would have 70 pounds of blood.  If a pint weighs a pound, which for blood is conservative, there is a lot of blood there.

Other wounds that demand attention on an emergency basis are those penetrating the abdomen or chest.  The reasons are obvious.  A penetrating wound may injure vital organs, and in the horse this could go undetected until they failed to do their job.  The wound will also introduce bacteria and debris to these large chambers. Once inside, bacteria find an environment that is warm, moist and just great for setting up camp and reproducing.  An infection undetected or untreated will produce large amounts of infectious material (pus).  This substance attaches itself to all the surfaces, forming a fibrous-net.  Within the net will be pockets of infection that will only be removed with long-term antibiotics.

 Almost as serious is the effect blood has in such wounds. If blood is free within the abdomen or thorax, the clotting fibers will attach to everything.  Then as clotting continues and after the bleeding has stopped, the clot will contract, squeezing out all the fluid. The resulting material would be a scab on the outside. Within the abdomen for example, it will draw the attached organs together.  If the intestines are included, it can even tighten around them to the extent movement is restricted, leading to colic conditions.

What a horrible story, but it is true! Consequently, puncture wounds into the abdomen and chest should be taken seriously!  Wounds that are bleeding freely should also receive immediate attention.  

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