General Information

A laceration is an accidental full-thickness cut through the skin. An abrasion is a scrape that damages the skin but does not penetrate the full thickness of the skin. To determine if a wound is an abrasion or a laceration, gently pull the wound edges apart. With a laceration, the underlying connective tissue can be seen.

Golden Rule:  All wounds should be sutured within 6 hours of occurrence!

In the event of a laceration, puncture wound, or injury open injury of any kind, please contact your veterinarian immediately.  The veterinarian will need to examine the injury and determine if the wound can and should be closed.

If the wound is determined to be repairable by suturing, there is a process that must be followed:

The wound must be thoroughly cleaned.  All dirt, foreign bodies and shards of bone must be removed.

The wound will then be locally anesthetized (numbed) so that the animal does not feel the next two steps.

Next, the wound will be debrided (dead or contaminated tissue removed) and clean margins established to allow for adequate heeling.

Finally, the wound is closed.  The veterinarian must choose the appropriate strength,type of suture, even the pattern in which it is closed.  The pattern used is important for reducing tension, strength of closure, and flexibility of the area to be closed.


Stitching     post laceration repair

In some circumstances, the veterinarian may choose not to suture a laceration:

Not suturing a wound does not necessarily lead to increased scarring.

Small lacerations will often heal without suturing.

A laceration may be located in an area where suturing is not practical or the sutures are likely to tear out.

Extensive wound contamination.  Suturing a wound that is contaminated with dirt, hair and other debris could lead to abscess formation or breakdown of the suture line.  Foreign bodies, such as pieces of wood or bone fragments, also impede wound healing.  Bruising or extensive tissue damage around the wound edges can destroy local blood vessels and impede healing of the suture line.  Puncture wounds are commonly contaminated by bacteria.  Suturing would seal these bacteria in the wound.  Puncture wounds are best flushed with a mild disinfectant and/or treated with systemic antibiotics.

Wounds whose edges cannot be brought together. Wounds in areas with tightly adherent skin or in areas subject to continuous movement, such as over some limb joints, cannot be sutured. If they are initially sutured, the suture line often pulls apart.

Large wounds in heavy muscled areas. Large wounds in the pectoral, forearm and upper hind limb areas often pull apart after numerous sutures are used to close them. Though these wounds look very severe initially, they usually heal very well if left open and kept clean. Healing of these open wounds takes weeks,but usually results in minimal scarring with minimal to no gait abnormalities.

Severe wounds penetrating tendon sheaths, joints, the eye, or the chest or abdominal cavities are not always sutured. Some require surgical exploration under general anesthesia to detect other associated injuries.


First Aid for Skin Wounds

Before veterinary care is available, apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth to slow or stop any bleeding. There is no need to apply pressure if the wound is not bleeding.

Administer ss soon as possible after your horse sustains a skin wound.

Gently clean the wound with mild antibacterial soap and water, and rinse well with clean water.

If the wound is contaminated with dirt and hair, flush it using a saline solution or cold water hosing.

If possible, bandage the wound, preferably with clean bandage material, or otherwise with a clean cloth.

Do not apply medication to the wound unless the veterinarian has directed you to do so. If vet care is a ways off, triple antibiotic ointment (like Neopsorin) is a safe choice.

Apply fly repellent around but not directly on the wound, and keep flies away until the veterinarian arrives to treat the wound (unless the repellent is labeled for such use-like SWAT).

Care of Sutured Wounds

Keep the wound area clean and dry. You may wipe away any seeping serum or blood with a warm wet cloth.

Keep flies away from the wound. Apply fly repellent around but not directly on the wound.

Minimize movement of the sutured area by reducing exercise or cross-tying the horse in a stall.

Reduce food intake if your horse is to be confined during wound healing.

Suture Removal

If your horse’s wound was closed with internal absorbable sutures, then the sutures do not require removal.
If your horse’s wound was closed with external (skin), nonabsorbable sutures or staples, then those must be removed. Your horse’s sutures can usually be removed in 10-14 days. Often veterinarian do not charge for the suture removal (only the trip).

Call Our Office If:

You have any questions concerning your horse’s wound.
You observe swelling, pain or excessive discharge in the wound area.
Your horse’s condition worsens or does not improve.
The sutures have dehisced (wound has come apart).