Managing Penetrating Injuries in the Field

Penetrating injuries can have serious consequences for horses, but vets are well-versed in handling them.
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A splintered tree limb or a jagged piece of metal protrudes from your horse’s chest. Don’t panic–field veterinarians are well-versed in handling penetrating injuries like these in horses, because, yes, nightmares like these are sometimes realized.

Shannon Murray, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, a practitioner at Rhinebeck Equine, LLP, in New York, reviewed how to manage penetrating wounds, from tiny (but insidious) punctures to more obvious impalements, during a series of lectures at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif. She covered caring for wounds, with and without synovial structure (joint) involvement.

Wounds Penetrating Synovial Structures

Puncture wounds involving joints are a common way for bacteria to enter horses’ synovial structures, Murray said. These wounds should be considered emergencies and treated immediately and aggressively, as potentially serious consequences can develop. While veterinarians can treat these injuries successfully in the field, she said, referral is generally the best option, if possible.

Wound Basics

If a laceration is less than six to eight hours old when the veterinarian arrives, it is still considered acute; bacteria might have entered the synovial structure, but it’s unlikely the joint is truly infected yet. If the wound is more than 6 to 8 hours old, it is considered chronic and a true infection in the joint will likely develop. Bacteria in a synovial structure disrupt the joint’s homeostasis and cause inflammation, Murray said

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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