To Bandage or not to Bandage?

It's been all go, go, go lately with the horses ... and not for the right reasons! We have a patient on the yard this week ... poor little Jack got a kick from a mare in his field who had had enough of his playfulness! The result being a deep laceration right at below his knee joint and a less than impressed pony! We had the vet out who flushed the joint to see if the laceration had extended into the joint, thus at risk of a joint infection. Luckily it hadn't but he's now facing a good two weeks of boxrest along with a 7 day supply of daily intramuscular antibiotic injections.

As his injury is right below his knee we were advised that he a bandage from above his knee to his fetlock to discourage him from lying down and bending his leg too much. This also keeps the area clean and ensures that no bacteria can enter the site.

Bandaging, in this case, was vital to aid in his recovery but I see so many people bandaging small cuts and scrapes that would actually heal quicker and more successfully if left exposed to the air. In some cases, a bandage can actually prolong healing due to the pressure and friction! In vet school we were told how location and depth are the key considerations in deciding whether to bandage or not :)

Clean and bacteria free wounds above the elbow and stifle tend to simply scab over and heal really well on their own. This is partly due to the general lack of movement of the horse's body in this area along with the excellent circulation at and above the level of the heart. 

Lower leg injuries are far riskier and difficult to keep clean and are often irritated by dirt, abrasion and the horse's movement. The higher capillary blood pressure in the legs can promote the formation of proud flesh. This is an excessive growth of granulation tissue that won't heal over and requires 'shaving down' by a vet.

Careful and correct bandaging (it amazes me how many people can't bandage a leg properly....this can do more harm than good!) are beneficial for wounds at or below the knees and hocks.

Shallow wounds, such as scrapes and small abrasions, will form scabs shortly after being exposed to air. These do better when left alone. Not to mention that wounds on the body are notoriously difficult to keep covered up!

Deeper and thicker wounds are easily recognised as they penetrate all the skin layers. These have edges that separate or can be pulled apart to reveal underlying structures. This will leave a gateway for deep infection to take hold and may possibly even require stitches. It is best to get the advice of a vet with this type of wound as the bandaging type and technique may vary.

A deep laceration requiring veterinary treatment and bandaging

The new skin formed under bandages are often really delicate and some require ointments to help the skin toughen up a bit. It should also be remembered that this is a guide and that treatments will vary from horse to horse :)

Ah horses, always amazes me why we put ourselves through this hassle and bottomless money pit ... but then again, I wouldn't have it any other way! :)

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