Ask the Vet: Wound Care (bandaging)

Question: My horse has two open, gaping wounds on the front of his hind ankles from being hit by a truck several weeks ago. They are not healing well and since he is a show horse, I would like to care for them in a way to achieve the best possible results and minimal scarring. What is the best product/procedure to promote healing and minimize scarring?

Answered by Dr. Erin Denney-Jones, Clermont, FL

Answer: This is a good topic to discuss all of the over-the-counter wound medications that are available. We veterinarians receive, almost on a weekly basis, flyers for those medications. They all advertise that they speed healing and decrease scarring. The bottom line is that it depends on where the wound is located, what vital structures were involved, if there is a foreign body in the wound or not, and what bacteria and/or fungal elements are involved.

Any wound on the front of a joint such as the ankle (fetlock) would be reason enough to have your veterinarian determine that the joint or the structures in the joint are not involved. Also, wounds over joints are in an area of motion constantly pulling on the skins edges of the wound making it difficult to heal well. I would not be able to offer a suggestion for a product for you without evaluating the wounds – again looking for the structures involved etc. Since this is a show horse and scarring is a concern, possibly a visit to your local equine hospital may be your best possibility for repair under gas anesthesia rather than injectable anesthesia in the field where time is limited. Some medicated products are available to put on the wound from your veterinarian as well that would be better than your over-the-counter ones.

Question: How do you keep a bandage on a hock area laceration?

Answer: A figure eight type bandage is recommended for the hock area (it is similar to an ankle wrap on a person). Proper care of the laceration, either a nonstick pad or pad with antibiotic over the wound area is recommended with a 4-inch gauze roll to hold the pad in place. Again, the 4-inch roll gauze will need to be in a figure eight fashion possibly to hold the gauze over the wound. Always use a padded material, either roll cotton or a quilt on top of the gauze pad, and roll, under your vetrap. This will allow you to make a SNUG fit to your vetrap when wrapping it. Allow a small portion of the quilt or cotton roll to be showing under the vetrap at the top of your wrap and the bottom. Holes will need to be cut out over the point of the hock in the cotton roll or quilt so hock sores are avoided. Your vetrap’s final wrap should either be the circumference above or below the hock joint itself. This allows the vetrap to stick to itself more securely when the horse moves. Finally, less movement of the horse (possibly stalled) will keep the bandage on better. The more a horse moves around the looser the bandage becomes. A stacking bandage can be placed under the hock bandage to hold it in place depending on the site and size of the laceration, but a hock bandage, if done properly, will stay in place over the hock – again snug fit is recommended. Practice does make perfect when it comes to hock bandaging.