Friday, May 23, 2014

First Aid for Your Horse

Horses are always known for their beauty and grace, but honestly, grace sometimes does not fall alongside beauty.  Horses are accident prone and you must be ready for anything that can happen.  First and foremost, BE CALM.  If you are in a state of panic, your horse can pick up on your emotions and possibly be as well.
Once you assess the situation, determine whether the horse needs medical attention, or if the injury can be cared for using first aid.  ALWAYS CALL A VETERINARIAN when in doubt.   Here are some things you must keep on hand in a first aid kit for your horse:
1.  Mercury or Digital Thermometer-  A thermometer will let you know if your horse has an elevated temperature-a sign that a health problem needs attention.  Digital thermometers work best, and are easier on the eyes to read.  Just make sure you maintain control of the animal when using the thermometer, as you don't want to lose it in the horse's rectum and create another emergency!  A horse's normal temperature would be in the range of 99 to 101 degrees Farenheit.
2. Antiseptic wound cleaner-  Betadine, Hibitane, or Novalsan scrubs can be used to clean wounds. Do not use Hydrogen peroxide on wounds other than hoof wounds as it will kill healthy tissue.
3. Cutters/ Scissors/Wire cutters-  Useful when a horse becomes entangled in a wire fence.  Wire cutters can also remove loose shoes if necessary.
4. Stable wraps or standing bandages- Keep a set of clean unused bandages for wrapping injured legs. VetWrap is a commonly known brand.
5. Gamgee or other absorbent padding- used under stable wraps as padding for injured legs.  Keep these stocked inside a ziploc bag to maintain their sterility.
6.  Stethoscope-To monitor heart rate.  You can hear the heartbeat most clearly just behind the left elbow. A stethoscope can also be used to listen to gut noises if necessary.  Normal heart rate for a mature horse would be 28-40 beats per minute; weanlings: 60-80 beats per minute; yearlings: 40-60 beats per minute.
7. Zinc oxide cream- for sunburned noses, as well as to protect and heal minor cuts and abrasions.
8. Epsom salts- for drawing out infections.
9. Antiseptic cream or ointment- help heal minor cuts, wounds and abrasions.
10. Flashlight
11. Electrolyte powder or paste for dehydration.  To check for dehydration, pinch a fold of skin on the neck and release it.  If it slowly returns to its normal position and tends to stay in a fold, the horse is dehydrated.
12. Twitch- used to help calm an excited horse when administering first aid.

There are many books on first aid for large animals that can be helpful, as well as a having a small log book for taking notes on your horse's health.  And always have a veterinarian on call if an emergency arises.