|BASIC STEPS OF FIRST AID
First aid for your horse can be broken into two types.
1. Treatment of an injury that does not require medical attention.
2. A temporary measure until your veterinarian arrives.
PRIMARY RULES OF FIRST AID
Either way, first aid can have a remarkable effect on the outcome of the horse's recovery.
1. Calm yourself. Gather your wits about you and proceed in a slow, calm manner. If you are in a panic it helps no one, least of all an injured horse who is also excited and scared.
2. Assess the horse's attitude. Can you safely approach and work on the horse? If not, do not approach. Wait for help.
3. Get the horse to a quiet, familiar area if possible and work on calming him/her. Reassure the horse by rubbing the neck and talking to it. Move quietly and slow.
4. Safely assess the wound.
5. Seek veterinary advice if the wound is large or if you are not comfortable in treating the wound youself.
Allow at least 30-60 minutes for fresh wounds to stop bleeding. Large fresh wounds usually need sutured to promote healing and minimize scarring. Contact your veterinarian. Early attention improves the chances of complete healing.
If wound is bleeding severely, apply a pressure bandage directly over the wound to slow it down until the vet arrives. Apply pressure to the wound with a thick pad of gauze or cloth folded several times to create a thick pad and apply Vet Wrap firmly over the padding. If the bleeding location prevents your being able to wrap it, hold it in place until bleeding stops.
Having a first aid kit readily available at home and when traveling is your first step in providing emergency care for your injured horse. You need items in your kit to provide both emergency care and for treating minor cuts and scrapes. Kits will vary according to personal preference, but there are certain supplies that should be incorporated into every kit.
FIRST AID KIT
Metal or plastic toolboxes make great moisture-proof containers for your kit. Brightly colored kits are easier to locate in an emergency. Mark it FIRST AID KIT on the top and sides. Place the kit in a handy spot in the barn or stable, familiarize yourself with the contents and know how to use them.
You may also want to have a more portable version, as it is a good idea to carry a kit with you when you are out on trail rides, horse camping, or are otherwise in a situation where veterinary attention is not readily available. A waterproof bag with a zipper and a covering flap works well as a travel kit. Make sure there is a way to attach the kit to your belt or saddle.
Recommended items for your first aid:
• Thermometer - Normal temperature should be between 99.0 and 101.5 degrees F.
• Stethoscope - To monitor heart rate. Your horse's heartbeat can be heard most clearly just behind the left elbow. It is also useful for listening for gut sounds.
• Electrolytes, powder and paste for dehydration.
• Neosporin - This should be applied twice daily to minor abrasions and in wounds that are superficial wounds (the skin edges cannot be moved separately).
• Diluted iodine solution - To flush out any full thickness wounds (the skin edges can be moved separately). Any wound that will be seen by a veterinarian within 4 hours of injury (8 hours for head injuries) should not have any other medications applied, but should simply be flushed with clear water or dilute iodine solution and covered to prevent drying.
• Nolvasan, Furacin, Corona, Wound Powder - These antiseptic ointments or powders are to be applied to full thickness wounds (the skin edges can be moved separately) that will not be seen by a veterinarian within the first 4 to 8 hours.
• Hydrogen peroxide - Avoid use of peroxide in wounds as it will kill healthy tissue. The one exception would be contaminated sole wounds. Peroxide can be used to clean these out initially. It should not be placed into any other type of wound.
• Knife for making splints, cutting bandaging materials, cutting your horse free from a tangled rope, etc. Use extreme care when using a knife around your horse.
• Wire cutters - In the event a horse has gotten tangled up in fence or wire.
• Twitch - This tool can help calm and restrain your horse during painful procedures.
• Hoof pick - To clean out the bottom of the foot to search for punctures, bruising, or other foot problems.
• Fly lotion - This can be used to keep flies and other insects from irritating and contaminating open wounds that cannot be bandaged. Apply the lotion directly around but not inside the wound.
Ophthalmic Polysporin - For eye injuries.
• Bandaging Materials Cotton Padding, Telfas (non-stick gauze) Vetrap
• Duct Tape, Diapers, Large & Small Sterile Gauze or Vetrap
• Elastoplast, 1-inch and 2-inch White Adhesive Tape, Saran Wrap, Cotton Leg Wraps
• 6-inch brown roll gauze, Med-Rip bandage tape
• Latex gloves
• 4-5 1-1/2"x18 ga needles
• Irrigating syringe
• Antibiotic spray
• Safety pins
• Zip Lock Bags
• Epsom Salt
• Betadine Solution
• Catheter tip syringe
• Betadine Scrub
• Physiological Saline
• Petroleum Jelly
• Blunt-nosed scissors
In the refrigerator:
• Tetanus Antitoxin
• Tetanus Toxoid booster
Be sure to check expiration dates and replace as necessary.
WOUNDS AND TREATMENT
Lacerations - Deep Cut in Skin Versus a Full Skin Thickness Cut:
Cuts which do not penetrate the skin all the way cannot have the edges of the wound separated. You cannot pull the edges of the wound apart because the skin is still connected at the base of the wound. How deep can a partial thickness be? If the skin is thick it may be 1/4 to 3/8 inches deep. In areas where the skin is thin it may be less.
Clean the wound with soap and water and apply a nitrofurazone-based spray twice a day. Ointments are okay but will not last as long. A bandage may be applied to areas like the leg where the wound would be subjected to dirt. These wounds do not require suturing but should be examined carefully to be sure there are no punctures.
Full Skin Thickness Wounds:
Suturing of this type of wound depends on several factors. Age of the wound, location, contamination, blunt trauma. Contaminated or blunt trauma wounds are often safer left open and cared for properly than when sutured.
Open wounds which do not receive medical attention for several hours should be flushed out with clean water and bandaged using an antibacterial cream such as Neosporin. If suturing is required flushing and bandaging the wound will help minimize infection.
Puncture wounds can be deceiving. Frequently they appear to be minor wounds. Depending on the depth and contamination they can rapidly become infected. Pain and swelling within the first 24 to 72 hours after the accident are good indicators that there is a problem. Punctures seal up rapidly so the infection has no place to go and spreads to surrounding tissue. Have your Vet examine the wound if you have any doubt as to how deep the puncture is or if it is draining well.
A hard blow that does not break the skin can be treated with ice compresses for a minimum of 30 minutes and oral bute (consult your Vet before using) to limit swelling and pain.
Temperature - Normal body temperature of a mature horse at rest is 99 to 101 degrees F.
Heart and Pulse Rate:
Normal mature horses - 28 to 40 beats per minute.
Newborn foals - 80 to 120 beats per minute
Weanlings - 60 to 80 beats per minute
Yearlings - 40 to 60 beats per minute
Determine Pulse Rate:
The horse should be calm, rested and relaxed to obtain an accurate heart rate.
Press your fingers against an artery. There are several locations where an artery can be felt.
1. back edge of lower jaw
2. inner surface of the groove under the jaw
3. inside the elbow, up and forward against the chest wall.
4. under the tail, close to the body
5. the inside or outside pastern.
Check skin pliability for dehydration. Pinch a fold of skin on the neck and release it. It should quickly return to its original position. If the horse is dehydrated, the skin returns slowly and tends to stay in a fold.
Gums, inside lips of a mare's vulva and nostrils should be pink. A fire engine red color usually denotes illness. Anemia causes a pale color. Lack of circulation causes a bluish-purple color.
Quantity and Condition of Circulating Blood:
Rate of capillary refill (the rate blood returns to an area) indicates the quantity and condition of the circulating blood. Capillary refill can suggest anemia, colic, congestion and shock. You can determine capillary refill time by pressing your thumb on the horse's gum and releasing it. It should take about two seconds for the blood and normal color to return to the area. Longer capillary refill times can be indicators of dehydration or a circulatory problem.