Sunday, November 22, 2009

Medic! Common Sense First Aid for Horses

One of the integral parts of any horse owner’s life is going to be vet bills. That’s just a cold, hard fact that we all need to accept. But there are some things horse owners can keep on hand which can assist in an emergency situation such as when a horse is injured or stricken by a non-serious illness. That’s what we are covering here this month.

If your horse is like many of them, he will figure out the darndest things to injure himself on. I have had the escape artists get gate snaps hooked through their lower lips by playing with and chewing on those snaps (twice), I’ve had one gelding get a hoof caught between a pipe panel and the welded wire attached to it, one client’s filly got a foreleg caught in a pipe panel gate at home a one Summer and cause a fracture, another client’s mare got a back shoe caught in the welded wire on her paddock at home and caused tremendous scars from being down, laying in her urine for several hours before they found her the next morning -- I’ve had all sorts of things happen, and that’s with pampered show horses.

Caring for horses is oftentimes worse than caring for small children. They injure themselves and get themselves into situations which can damage them more often, and frequently that damage is far more expensive. It goes without saying, as horse owners we need to keep a veritable pharmacy at hand for the things our horses do to themselves.

I always try to have clean rags, towels, cotton and gauze pads on hand for cleaning wounds, along with a saline wound wash (Betadine Scrub also for certain injuries or instances) and a few remedies for wound care, depending on the severity, such as Granulex, Blu-Kote, Corona, Furacin, Aloe Comfrey and even good old human Neosporin (which is a triple antibiotic) and GREAT stuff for treatment. Unless the injury needs to be sewn them up and there is no call for stitches you can do a fairly good job of bandaging them up yourself. Well, bandaging infers wrapping, and unless absolutely necessary, I prefer to allow wounds to breathe naturally, they tend to heal better, though I do like the aluminum based spray on “bandage” which helps keep dirt, hair and grime from getting in the injury.

Other remedies and products I like to have on hand are the drawing agent Ichthammol, the coagulant Wonder Dust, Povidine, Clear Eyes, DMSO and another terrific human product, Desenex (which works fabulous on fungus’ or other skin conditions like scratches). But I am always open to new things that work well, whether originally intended for equine use or not.

I also keep both Bute (phenylbutazone) and Banamine (flunixin meglumine) around, the Bute (in paste form) which assists more with bone-related pain and injectable Banamine which is better for muscle-related pain, such as during a colic episode. Both are NSAID’s (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs) and do their respective jobs exceptionally well.

Speaking of injections, know how to give one safely! They aren’t difficult (unless you have a difficult horse to begin with, in which case you need a humane twitch and/or a good stud chain) and sometimes very necessary. Once you learn how -- your vet, your trainer or an experienced horsey friend can teach you -- there will be no need to pay your vet for giving regular vaccinations, either, so there is a side benefit. I keep a supply of 18 and 20 gauge needles, syringes of various sizes and rubbing alcohol (or the pre-moistened patches for that purpose) on hand just in case.

You should also know how to take your horse’s temperature (for which you need to purchase a horse-specific thermometer, available at most tack stores) and to listen for gut sounds in a colicking horse with a stethoscope, which you can find via any number of medical supply companies relatively inexpensively.

Another thing you may want to have around, though because of the expense most of us do not have a full compliment of sizes, are Easyboots (or one of the knockoffs) in case you’re dealing with a hoof injury. They also can come in handy to take trail riding for when your horse unexpectedly loses a shoe, so they’re multi-use.

Tranquilizers in your supply fridge are also a good idea, my personal preference is a cocktail of Torbugesic and Rompun or good old Acepromazine, though the Ace tends to make them far more sleepy. These, too, are injectable, so knowing how to give shots truly is essential.

You will want to know how to wrap an injured leg correctly, for instance if you are treating a tendon or ligament injury. This requires some practice to master the skill, along with several substances or appliances which will help accomplish what you need, like Telfa pads, a roll of cotton (or cotton bandaging pads), Vetrap, a similar product or good standing wraps, and bandage scissors.

Keep a flashlight out by the horses or, like we do, next to the front door for dealing with injuries at night if you don’t have a well lit barn. I also have a flashlight in my horse trailer, and my husband has a high powered work light we keep handy which has been very helpful in a couple of situations.

It is essential that you know if your horse needs immediate veterinary care. Obviously, for broken bones, injuries needing sutures, possible founder, severe colic cases and other potentially life threatening situations or severe injuries you will need to have your horse seen as soon as possible by your veterinarian. But knowing how to take care of minor things along with having the ability to stabilize your horse or make him more comfortable until the vet arrives (or you arrive at the vet hospital) can make a world of difference to your horse.


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