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Puncture Wound in Horses

Puncture Wound in Horses

A puncture wound in your horse can be extremely dangerous if not treated properly, especially if it is in the sole, which the majority of puncture wounds are. In fact, in some cases, a puncture wound may be fatal. Our Mount Vernon vets will explain what to look for and how you can help.

Symptoms of Puncture Wounds in Horses

The symptoms of a puncture wound depend on the location of the wound, how severe it is, and how deep it goes. Most puncture wounds are in the sole, there are other areas prone to puncture such as the legs, side, abdomen, head, and chest. Signs of puncture wounds that have been reported most often are:

  • Swollen area
  • Bruising or gravelly skin
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bleeding
  • Limping or walking abnormally
  • An object sticking out of the foot or other area
  • puncture marks on the skin
  • Scar or lesion on the skin
  • Tear or rip in the skin
  • Tetanus (muscle spasms, protruding third eyelid, labored breathing, unable to drink or eat well)
  • Death (rare)

There are different kinds of puncture wounds, which are:

  • Torn or ripped wounds have uneven or jagged edges and are usually not very deep
  • Incised wounds such as stab wounds have sharp or clean edges and will bleed a great deal if blood vessels are involved
  • Simple puncture wounds are usually in the sole, caused by a nail or other sharp object, can be very bloody, and get infected easily

Causes of Puncture Wounds in Horses

Many situations can cause a puncture wound anywhere on your horse. Bacteria may then get into the tissue, causing the wound to become inflamed, red, and sore. These are the most common ways your horse can injure itself:

  • Sharp rock or piece of glass or metal on the ground
  • Barbed wire fences
  • Dangerous areas in the stable or barn where your horse may get injured

Diagnosis of Puncture Wounds in Horses

To get a definitive diagnosis of a puncture wound on your horse, you will have to see an equine veterinary professional either at your home or their place of business. Even if you think the puncture is not deep or there is not a lot of blood, the injury needs to be seen. Some of the complications of not seeing a vet are infection, lameness, sepsis (blood infection), and tetanus. Also, if the puncture wound is near a bone or joint, damage done can leave devastating injury complications such as an unrepaired broken bone or crushed joint. This can leave your horse lame, in extreme pain, and can even be fatal.

The vet will first do a complete thorough physical examination including vital signs (respiration, pulse, and temperature), lameness examination and hoof test, weight, height, capillary refill time, reflexes, blood pressure, and breath sounds. Also important, radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, CT scans, and MRI can show the damage done to tissues, bones, tendons, and muscles. Blood work will be done to check for infection, tetanus, and sepsis. This includes a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry analysis, packed cell volume (PCV), bacterial, and fungal cultures.

Treatment of Puncture Wounds in Horses

Treatment for most puncture wounds involves cleaning, irrigation, sterilizing, medication, and bandaging. However, there are some cases when the vet will need to perform surgery to remove dead or infected tissue and anything that could be stuck in the wound.


The foot is a difficult area for a puncture wound. Intense scrutiny will be required to make sure the entire puncture wound is clean and sterilized before bandaging. Sometimes this requires opening up the wound to see what damage has been done and how to fix it, especially in the feet.


The area should be irrigated with a warm sterile solution and any abscesses should be drained and cleaned with an alcohol solution.


This step requires topical antibiotics such as Neosporin or nolvasan, oral antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and possibly some pain medication so contact your Mount Vernon vets for a prescription.


The vet will be sure there is a way for the wound to drain if needed, and then it will be wrapped in several layers of sterile gauze bandages, a roll of quilted cotton, and a support bandage such as a strap or elastic.

If you are worried that your horse has a puncture wound and it is not getting better, please contact our Mount Vernon vets today for a consultation.

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