Heel Bulb Lacerations in Horses

May 14, 2007 (published)

Horses get lacerations of the heel, which are commonly seen in veterinary practice, as horses seem to get caught in wire and other objects and damage this area. Although these wounds may not seem too severe at first glance, they can be extremely severe and can prove to be deadly to the horse. Because there is not a lot of excess tissue at the back of the horse's pastern and heel, any laceration in this area has the potential of involving tendons, ligaments, and synovial structures such as joint and tendon sheaths. Infections that develop in joints or tendon sheaths can be extremely serious. For this reason, all wounds in this area should be examined immediately by your vet. The best thing to do is wrap the wound with a clean wrap and not use any topical medication until the wound is examined.

All of these wounds should be examined by your vet under either general or local anesthesia to determine the structures involved. If a tendon sheath or joint is involved, these structures should be flushed with sterile fluids and antibiotics for several days to decrease contamination. Radiographs are required to check for fractures. If a joint or tendon sheath is involved and it is not treated quickly, many of these infections will require a horse to be euthanized from joint infection. If a joint is not involved, the laceration can be sutured and a cast applied from the fetlock to the foot. Because of the constant movement of this area, sutures will not hold if a cast is not applied; a bandage is not effective. If a joint is involved, it can be flushed over several days and then the wound can be closed or left open and a cast applied. The cast can be removed in 3 weeks after which usually these wounds will be healed.

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