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The Do's and Don't of Cleaning Horse Wounds
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The Do's and Don't of Cleaning Horse Wounds

Owning a horse means you have to be prepared for the possibility of them getting injured and caring for those wounds. Horses are very skilled in the art of injuring themselves and usually sustain wounds going through the regular course of their days. While they could simply be wounded as a result of being stuck, running into obstacles or running over sharp objects, if the resulting wound/injury is an open sore, laceration or puncture, a veterinarian would have to be called but in the meantime knowing what you can apply in providing immediate first aid is important.

For centuries, horse owners and veterinarians have experimented with horse health by trying several oils, ointments, cleansing solutions and dressing methods for treating wounds, but many have proved ineffective in providing positive results and helping horses’ wounds heal. At the 2015 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention held in Las Vegas, NV, a professor of equine surgery at Colorado State, Dr. Dean Hendrickson, helpfully rounded up what’s effective and what is not so great among the commonly used cleaning agents and topical treatments for horse wounds.

What’s Safe to Use

Saline Solutions 

Hendrickson pointed to the sterile saline solution as the best and simplest cleaning agent for all kinds of cuts and open wounds. Horse owners should always have some handy in their first aid kits to help maintain good horse health as saline solution works to reduce bacteria around a wound and removes dead or infected issues.

Acetic Acid (Vinegar)

According to Hendrickson, there is a lot of provable science behind applying distilled vinegar, a common household item, to wounds. He cited its low pH for its effectiveness in eliminating certain bacteria and suggested that this agent is applied to a horse’s wound as a compress gauze soak for about 15 minutes a day and followed with some saline.

Surfactant-based Cleansers

He explained that these cleansers are almost non-toxic and can be applied as necessary to wounds and left to sit for 1-2 minutes.


Silver, usually sold as an antimicrobial agent in the form of silver sulfadiazine creams, is good for cleaning wounds. It is also marketed in a dressing form and leaves smoother skin build up than other ointments.

Triple Antibiotic Ointment

Dr. Hendrickson stated that antibiotic ointments are effective at killing bacteria and are highly efficacious when paired with silver.


Some kinds of honey, such as the ones derived from Tea Tree Manuka bushes can have antimicrobial effects on these wounds.

What to Avoid  


Hendrickson cited a few studies that have shown that chlorhexidine is hardly effective in decreasing the number of bacteria around wounds without causing some trauma to the wound. He added that the unsafe antiseptic has been proven to lead to regrowth of bacteria and tissue necrosis in some cases.

Povidone Iodine (PI)

According to Hendrickson, research has shown that this commonly used solution leads to the slowed healing of wounds, tissue necrosis and increases chances of wound infection.

Hydrogen Peroxide

According to Hendrickson, hydrogen peroxide is grossly overrated as a cleaning agent and provides few verifiable positive or negative effects on wounds.


According to him, this topical antibiotic should not be applied on any open wounds as it could inhibit healing.

Image credit: Emaze.com

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