If you find your horse with a severe laceration on his leg and blood pooling on the stall floor, no doubt your heart will immediately skip a beat. As you regain your composure you might begin to wonder: How do I treat this, and where do I start?

Chances are, you’ll need your veterinarian’s help to manage these serious, hemorrhaging wounds properly. Still, it never hurts to know the steps involved so you can take action while your vet is en route or while you’re on the way to the clinic.

To that end, Louise Southwood, BVSc, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVECC, reviewed the steps veterinarians should take in an emergency laceration situation at the 2015 World Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Oct. 8-10 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Southwood is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center, in Kennett Square.

She gave attendees the following recommendations:

  • With any wound, Southwood said, the first priority should be to stop the hemorrhaging. How easy this will be depends on the severity of the laceration. Common ways to slow the bleeding include applying pressure to the affected area with towels or a pressure bandage, which is useful if you need to transport the horse to a clinic.“Keep in mind that while stopping hemorrhage is critical, horses do have a lot of blood—about 40 liters (10.5 gallons) for an average 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) horse—and can lose a lot of blood before they exhibit signs of shock, up to 8 to 10 liters,” she said.
  • Even in the early stages of managing the laceration, watch for lameness or gait abnorm