Open Wound Treatment Products For Horses

This article, the first in a series on skin-care products, focuses on products most appropriate for the treatment of open and serious wounds.

Extensive wounds should be sutured closed, if at all possible, because it’s virtually impossible to keep a horse’s environment as clean as necessary for healthy healing. However, if the wound is over six hours old, suturing is no longer advisable because the invasion of the deep tissues by bacteria has probably already occurred. You also may not be able to suture the wound because too much skin has been lost. A third problem that can leave you dealing with an open wound is skin death along the suture line.

Well-Horse impressed us in our field trials. To prevent the skin drying between treatments, use plain, clear aloe vera gel with no additives and no alcohol. Fruit of the Earth is a good choice. The Aloe Advantage Matrix System simplifies proper wound care. Old favorite Skin Renovator didn’t let us down. For crusty problems, you may want to consider Schreiner’s Herbal Solution or Hawthorne’s Simple Solution. Super H is a top choice for healing proud flesh.

Dealing with open wounds requires meticulous daily nursing care, but even large and deep wounds can heal with surprisingly little scarring if treated properly. The first step when a wound is discovered is thorough cleaning to remove all contaminating debris.

Dead or questionable tissue should also be removed by your veterinarian, since this is a perfect culture medium for bacteria.

Our chart lists our experience with various products. In general, you can expect to have to clean any contamination and secretions from the wound at least once a day then apply a protective barrier to keep the wound from drying out and as a layer between the tissues and dirt or insects.

Because heavy creams are usually best avoided, those will be covered in later articles of this series.


Speed of healing is always a concern when managing open wounds. However, individual differences between horses and in types of wounds, level of contamination, make it difficult to compare speed of healing with various approaches under field-trial conditions. We were unable to detect any striking difference in the rate of healing with any particular approach.

Your greatest enemy in equine wounds is infection, which slows healing considerably. This can influence the choice of product.

That said, with the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both human and veterinary medicine, researchers are looking at topical disinfectants as a way of dealing with, and preventing, wound infections.

We had several chemical and herbal disinfectants in this trial and found that, when used at appropriate concentrations, they all did an excellent job in keeping tissues healthy with no negative effects on the wound’s healing.

For the first few days after a wound, you can expect some degree of yellowish drainage as the immune system works to clean up any remaining dead tissue and surface organisms. This should decrease steadily but wounds with pockets of deep damage may drain for longer.


Indicators of significant infection include excessively heavy drainage of thick yellow material, any odor, extreme sensitivity/pain, a hot feeling to the tissues around the wound and failure of the wound to heal. Call your veterinarian if you see these signs.

Our Trials. We used these products over several months when appropriate wounds surfaced in our test barns. All wounds were given proper veterinary care and treated with the products in this field trial. Your choice of product depends somewhat on the severity and degree of infection in the wound.

Bottom Line. Start with a disinfectant and see if it gets the job done on its own. The top choice and Best Buy choice for documented wide spectrum of activity in disinfectants is chlorhexidine, which is found in Chlorhexidine Solution from Durvet. We were also extremely impressed with the action and disinfecting properties of Tea Pro Equine Wound Spray.


When you need more than a disinfectant, Well-Horse knocks our former favorite Skin Renovator out of its No. 1 spot. Our trials found that Well-Horse forms a better seal on the wound and it can be used only once a day. It also may have the best antimicrobial effects.

For the ultimate in simple wound care, we applaud the Aloe Advantage Matrix System. The package gives you everything you need in a three-step program.

Article by Veterinary Editor Eleanor Kellon, VMD.

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