How do I treat a puncture wound?

It can be scary if your horse comes in from the field with a puncture wound. Here equine vet Gil Riley shares his advice on what to do. 

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Size doesn't matter

With horses, wounds are one thing in life where we can certainly agree that size doesn't matter! That's because a large wound can be of no great concern other than healing time, whereas a puncture wound might have devastating consequences and can even result in the death of the horse. 

How is that? Well, infection in a horse's joint is an emergency situation because within hours the joint can become so heavily contaminated by the bacteria growing there that it's impossible to remove, no matter how hard we try. 

A puncture wound over a joint is a veterinary emergency and must be considered to have breached the joint until proven one way or another by your vet. 

Wounds away from joints

Puncture wounds elsewhere, even those safely away from the joints, can also be a real concern because the nature of the wound means that infection is driven down deep into the body without any real opportunity to drain. 

If your horse has a puncture wound, unless it's nowhere near a joint or you're sure it's only superficial, this is one injury for which you must put in an emergency call. 

What to do while waiting for the vet

While you're waiting for the vet to arrive, if the wound is bleeding then compress the area - by either holding a towel against it or wrapping a bandage around if it's on the lower limb.



Finally, remember that puncture wounds on the sole of the foot can also enter a joint within the hoof, so these injuries must also be treated with caution.

Again, unless there's clear evidence that it's a superficial injury, this is another situation that requires urgent veterinary investigation.