In association with Nettex

A puncture wound in any horse is cause for serious concern. While the visible skin wound might be innocuous, the underlying injury may be much more severe. Puncture wounds over joints and tendon sheaths carry the greatest risk – if either has been penetrated, it can set up a life-threatening infection. 

These horses require emergency surgery to flush the joint or tendon sheath to remove the contamination and prevent infection.  

If tendons, ligaments, cartilage or bone are involved in a puncture wound, it can also have serious – and sometimes fatal – implications for the horse if prompt veterinary treatment is not sought.

Common culprits that cause this type of wound are pieces of wood, nails, wire and thorns. These objects are commonly contaminated with dirt or rust, which will be driven deep into the wound to set up a seed of infection. 

What to do

On identifying and locating a puncture wound, you should take the following action:-

  • Clean the wound with warm water containing an antiseptic solution – chlorhexidine-based solutions are ideal;
  • If the wound is bleeding, apply pressure using clean gauze swabs until the bleeding stops.
  • If the bleeding won’t stop, apply a dressing or clean gauze swab and bandage it in place, and call your vet.  If the wound is is not in a place that can be bandaged, maintain pressure on the area.
  • Decide whether you need to call your vet immediately.
  • If it only appears to be a minor puncture wound that has stopped bleeding, is not deep and is in a ‘safe’ area, apply a wound cream. Clean the wound and reapply the cream twice daily.
  • Even minor puncture wounds are prone to getting infected, so monitor your horse closely. Signs of infection include heat, swelling and pain at the site of the puncture wound.  Pus or clear fluid oozing from the wound are also signs of infection.  Pain and lameness should always be taken seriously and mean you need your vet to urgently examine your horse
  • Never be tempted to give your horse anti-inflammatories unless they have been prescribed by your vet for this wound.  Not only is doing this illegal you also risk masking signs of pain which may stop you realising that your horse has a serious infection.

When to call the vet

Call the vet immediately if: 

  • The puncture wound is over a joint or tendon sheath;
  • You can’t stop the bleeding;
  • The puncture wound is in the back half of the sole of the foot (towards the heel and around the frog);
  • The puncture wound appears to be very deep;
  • The wound is on the chest or abdomen and appears to be deep;
  • The horse is in pain or distressed;
  • He isn’t up to date with his tetanus vaccinations.
  • You’re not sure what to do – your vet will not mind giving advice and can help you to decide whether a visit is needed.

First aid essentials

Be prepared for any eventuality with first aid products from the Nettex range. To order online and view special offers, visit: