5 First-Aid Kit Es­sen­tials

Trail Rider - - FRONT PAGE - Eleanor M. Kel­lon, VMD (www.drkel­lon.com), is a Staff Vet­eri­nar­ian for Uck­ele Health and Nutri­tion, Inc., and is the owner of Equine Nu­tri­tional Solutions, a nu­tri­tional con­sult­ing firm. She’s the au­thor of Horse Jour­nal Guide to Equine Sup­ple­ments and Nu

NNoth­ing is worse than try­ing to hunt down sup­plies when your horse is ill or in­jured at home and on the road. So a lit­tle pre-plan­ning on your part — as­sem­bling your own first-aid kit — will make han­dling these emer­gen­cies go more smoothly. The most com­mon first-aid sit­u­a­tions with horses are: (1) in­juries of all sorts; (2) res­pi­ra­tory or other in­fec­tious dis­eases; and (3) colic. Your first-aid kit should re­flect these sit­u­a­tions.

1 Ther­mome­ter 1 Any time your horse is off feed, look­ing droopy, or act­ing out of sorts, first take his tem­per­a­ture. Even if he has ob­vi­ous symp­toms, such as a cough or runny ma­nure, your vet­eri­nar­ian will need to know if your horse has a fever.

Tra­di­tional mer­cury ther­mome­ters for horses are five inches long, have a heavy plas­tic screw-top case, and a loop at the end. A heavy string or tape can be run through the loop and se­cured to an al­li­ga­tor clip or clothes­pin. This is clamped to the tail hairs to pre­vent it from fall­ing and break­ing. Dig­i­tal ther­mome­ters are safer than mer­cury ther­mome­ters, as they’re harder to break and mer­cury-free. You should also check your horse’s pulse with a stetho­scope.

2“Sharps” There are sev­eral small sharp im­ple­ments you should store in your first-aid kit. First, you’ll need scis­sors to trim back long hairs over­ly­ing wounds and to trim ban­dag­ing ma­te­ri­als to fit. Also in­clude heavy shears or a knife strong enough to cut through a hal­ter, crossties, leg straps, and blan­kets in case your horse gets tan­gled or hung up. And be sure to keep handy a sturdy pair of pli­ers for pulling off loose or sprung shoes.

3 Wound wash Gen­tle wash­ing is the first step in re­mov­ing sur­face con­tam­i­na­tion (dirt, plant ma­te­rial, hair, bed­ding, etc.) from a wound and re­duc­ing the num­ber of bac­te­ria on its sur­face. Un­less there’s heavy bleed­ing that needs to be stopped first, clean wounds with ob­vi­ously vis­i­ble con­tam­i­na­tion by di­rect­ing a stream of wa­ter above the wound and al­low­ing it to run over the sur­face. Never di­rect wa­ter un­der pres­sure, even light hose pres­sure, straight onto a wound or cut. This can ac­tu­ally drive de­bris or con­tam­i­nants deeper in.

The ini­tial wa­ter clean­ing may re­sult in a lit­tle bleed­ing. If this isn’t heavy, it’s to be ex­pected from loos­en­ing sur­face clots. Ig­nore this, and pro­ceed to cleans­ing. Be­ta­dine scrub, or an­other wound-dis­in­fect­ing scrub made with povi­done (“tamed”) io­dine is a good choice, al­though some horses may be sen­si­tive to it. A two per­cent chlorhex­i­dine-based scrub is well tol­er­ated even by sen­si­tive-skinned horses.

Leave the re­moval of ma­te­ri­als deeply em­bed­ded in a wound to your vet­eri­nar­ian to avoid trig­ger­ing heavy bleed­ing. If you don’t have gloves, wash your hands with the sur­gi­cal scrub, in­clud­ing un­der your fin­ger­nails, for a good five min­utes be­fore touch­ing the wound.

For the ini­tial cleans­ing, use ei­ther gauze sponges or just your hands to gen­tly work up a lather on the wound. Use very light pres­sure only. Leave the lath­ered scrub on the wound for 5 to 10 min­utes, then rinse thor­oughly. Never use cot­ton balls or roll cot­ton to clean a wound. These leave ir­ri­tat­ing fibers be­hind, em­bed­ded in the tis­sues.

4 Topi­cals for Wounds Wounds heal best in a warm, moist en­vi­ron­ment. Sim­ply cov­er­ing a wound is a good way to fight de­hy­dra­tion of the tis­sues and trap body heat. If you do choose to ap­ply a top­i­cal med­i­ca­tion, what you use is largely a mat­ter of choice. A layer of petroleum jelly on the wound-sur­face side of the first layer of ban­dag­ing works great in pre­vent­ing the ban­dage from stick­ing to the wound. Oth­ers pre­fer an­tibi­otic wound creams or herbal-based prod­ucts, such as aloe vera. If you use a petroleum-jelly-im­preg­nated wound dress­ing un­der a ban­dage, no other top­i­cal is needed.

As you as­sem­ble your first-aid kit, make sure to in­clude these five es­sen­tials. BY ELEANOR M. KEL­LON, VMD

On the other hand, su­per­fi­cial abra­sions that ooze, but don’t go com­pletely through all skin lay­ers, may be best han­dled by a spray that will seal the tis­sues and pro­tect them from in­sects. Sprays based on alu­minum, gen­tian vi­o­let, and scar­let red oil serve this pur­pose well. If you have a large open wound that can’t be ban­daged, con­sult your vet­eri­nar­ian for the best ap­proach.

One hu­man prod­uct, Bac­tine, can come in handy with painful wounds. You can use it to de­sen­si­tize ten­der wounds be­fore work­ing on them or to sat­u­rate stick­ing ban­dages be­fore re­mov­ing them. You can also use it as the sole dress­ing on su­per­fi­cial wounds and to ease sun­burn pain on pink-skinned horses.

5 Ban­dag­ing Ma­te­ri­als When­ever pos­si­ble, in­juries should be ban­daged to keep them in a warm and moist en­vi­ron­ment and en­hance heal­ing. For the outer layer of ban­dage ma­te­rial, a self-ad­her­ent ban­dage, such as Ve­trap, Coban, or Co-Flex, is ideal. These ma­te­ri­als “breathe,” al­low you to fine tune the pres­sure, and are dis­pos­able. Use scis­sors or a knife to cut a ver­ti­cal line through the ban­dage and open it up to re­move it. Keep four to six rolls of Ve­trap in your first-aid kit.

A layer be­tween your out­er­most self-ad­he­sive wrap and the wound dress- ing will help ab­sorb drainage and pad the wound. Gamgee is a fa­vorite for this. It’s a two-lay­ered ma­te­rial, with a cen­ter of highly ab­sorbent cot­ton wool and a syn­thetic outer sur­face that will re­sist stick­ing to the wound. Keep at least one 12-foot roll on hand. Gamgee can also be used to pack hoof ab­scesses.

For the early stages of heal­ing of open wounds — when there’s a high vol­ume of drainage — use petroleum-jelly-im­preg­nated gauze for the layer im­me­di­ately over the wound. With­out this, wound drainage may dry out be­tween ban­dage changes and even stick to some­thing like Gamgee.

As the amount of drainage lessens, switch to dry non­stick/non­ad­her­ent wound pads. Once drainage has ceased, or an open wound has gran­u­lated over to a smooth bed, this ad­di­tional layer can be elim­i­nated and the wound wrapped with only Gamgee. TTR


Here’s how to as­sem­ble your own first-aid kit to han­dle the five most com­mon equine emer­gen­cies.

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