Blood Loss from Lacerations in Horses

September 12, 2011 (published)

One of the most common frantic calls we get at the clinic is horse owners saying their horse has been cut and is bleeding profusely, so today on Texas Vet News I am going to talk about first aid in bleeding cases. First of all, it is important that you remain as calm as possible because the more excited you are, the more excited your horse will be and excitement increases blood pressure. Increased blood pressure leads to increased bleeding, so stay as calm as possible.

Secondly, unless you talk to your veterinarian, do not give any medication, especially sedatives. These drugs can be dangerous in a normal horse and the use of these drugs in a bleeding horse can decrease the blood pressure too much. If the horse has lost a significant amount of blood, the sedative can cause the blood pressure to drop so low that the horse can fall and injure itself as well as nearby people. Although bleeding can be scary, it is extremely unusual that a horse would bleed to death unless a major vessel is damaged, such as the jugular vein or uterine artery. Most lacerations occur on the lower legs and even though horses look like they are bleeding a lot from cuts there, the vessels are fairly small and the likelihood of losing too much blood is slim if a bandage is used.

If your horse is bleeding, wrap the leg tightly. It is important to have a non-stick pad to place over the wound, roll gauze to hold the bandage on the wound, and a full thickness of cotton to place around the wound with tight Vet Wrap on top. One trick is to place a rock or other hard small object directly over the bleeding artery, after applying the nonstick pad and gauze, to place pressure directly over the artery and help stop the bleeding.

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