In my many years of observing horses, I’ve noticed that they have a strong affinity for sharp objects. Is it some sort of magnetic force? Do they have little aliens inside their heads telling them to stick their leg through that rusty bush hog? Someone really needs to do some research on this topic. All I know is that horses love sharp things, and they love rubbing their bodies up against them, especially after-hours and on weekends.
Is this an emergency?
If in doubt, whenever your horse has a cut that has broken the skin, yes it is an emergency. Some things that make it more of an emergency include location (over a joint, tendon, or vital structure), bleeding (think puddles rather than drops), and duration (did this happen 5 minutes ago, or last week). Remember, all of our docs text message, and they generally will not charge you for reviewing photos of your horse’s questionable wound to decide whether or not it needs to be seen immediately.
Does this need stitches?
The answer to this question is not always black-and-white. It depends somewhat on your goals for the horse, your budget, and the level of aftercare you are able to provide. Oftentimes it is not a question of whether or not the wound will heal without sutures, but rather how pretty it will look in the end, and how long it will take. If you want the most cosmetic outcome for your horse, and the shortest healing time, then yes it needs stitches. But if you would like the least expensive option, you only want the horse to be a pasture ornament, and you have unlimited time to spend on cleaning and bandaging the wound, then you can probably get away without suturing. I will say, though, that skin makes an excellent band-aid, and any time it can be preserved, our docs like to give it a fighting chance.
So, your horse’s wound is all stitched up and looking wonderful. Game over, right? Not quite. Your horse may need some antibiotics, as well as daily cleaning, to prevent the wound from becoming infected. You also may need to implement some extra fly control around the wound, as bugs really love that seeping blood and serum. Usually our docs use sutures that will dissolve on their own over time. However, if your horse manages to rip the stitches out in less than a week, let us know right away.
The good news is that most lacerations heal amazingly well if treated quickly and properly. If you own a horse, chances are you will become familiar with their natural affinity for sharp things, if you haven’t already. Luckily you have my staff close at hand to help you when the time comes!
Until next time!