Whether large or small, serious or innocuous, all wounds follow a distinct and complex healing process. During the 2013 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 17-21 in Las Vegas, Nev., one veterinarian reviewed how wounds heal and how owners can help facilitate healing.

"(Wounds are) a fascinating topic; you never know what you’re going to come across," said Bimbo Welker, DVM, MS, a clinical associate professor in the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Veterinary Medicine Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and a practitioner at OSU’s Large Animal Services, in Marysville, Ohio.

Welker first reviewed some basic wound management steps. Although there’s been "a tremendous amount of research on wound healing, we still can’t speed wound healing up," he explained. We can, however, ensure wounds have an optimum environment in which to heal.

He also reminded veterinarians that skin is a complex organ that can’t regenerate. Instead, wound defects are replaced with fibrous tissue covered by surface epithelium, which reestablishes continuity, he explained.

"Healing always progresses in the same way," he said. "Wounds heal in stages, and each is dependent on the stage before it."

Welker then discussed the stages of wound healing, noting that while each of these stages must occur, many overlap and take place at the same time.

The Inflammatory Phase

The horse’s body begins reacting as soon as an injury occurs with the inflammatory phase, Welker said. The skin around the wound begins retracting due to tension; immobilizing