Foot/Lower Leg Wounds and Treatment

When you find your horse with a severe wound of the hoof or lower leg, you likely want to clean it up, remove any foreign matter such as fence wire, and apply antibiotics, right? However, this could make evaluation by your veterinarian more

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When you find your horse with a severe wound of the hoof or lower leg, you likely want to clean it up, remove any foreign matter such as fence wire, and apply antibiotics, right? However, this could make evaluation by your veterinarian more difficult, said Earl Gaughan, DVM, of Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine at the 15th annual Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium January 21-23.


“Try to get the client to not topically medicate the wound, so you can really see what’s going on,” he began. “The key to success is to see the wound as it happened, not covered with purple, green, blue, or whatever colored dressing or powder.”


He also encourages clients to leave any penetrating objects such as nails or wire in place so that the veterinarian can see visually and via X rays how deep the object penetrated, and treat those structures accordingly. If transport is necessary, he suggested clipping off the object near the skin if possible, and wrapping the area in a bath towel to pad it before shipping the horse to a hospital.


The veterinarian’s physical examination of the wounded horse should evaluate three things: The systemic health of the horse (i.e., has the wound resulted in significant blood loss, etc.? Does overuse of the contralateral limb risk unilateral laminitis?), the wound site (what tissues are involved and has any tissue been lost?), and the region surrounding the wound (has the wound significantly damaged the vascular system around the wound?). Physical manipulation is also important, as this can reveal excessive laxity of the limb due to transected support structures

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Written by:

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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