Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Planning for the Unexpected

There's a saying that goes something like "you can run cattle in a field for a hundred years with no incidence but put a horse in there and within 10 minutes he'll find every gopher hole, loose wire, stray branch, etc."

It just seems our equine friends are prone to injury.  I've encountered the routine cut or skinned leg along with the not-so-routine hoof puncture and corneal ulceration.  Through the years, I've seen the importance of a well-stocked first aid kit.

In the short time I've owned horses, I've managed to assemble a pretty decent first aid kit.  It started by combing the Internet and looking for suggestions.  It grew from the practical experience of actually doctoring my horses.  Each year I go through the contents and check inventory levels and expiration dates.

In their article, Your Barn's First Aid Kit,The Horse* recommends the following items:

  • A rectal veterinary thermometer—the plastic digital kind is safer around the barn than a glass one, and gives faster readings.
  • A pair of safety scissors (with rounded ends so you don’t accidentally cut into your horse if you’re snipping off a bandage).
  • Another pair of small, sharp scissors, for suture removal.
  • A stethoscope (inexpensive ones can be purchased through medical supply stores or pharmacies for less than $30).
  • Self-sticking bandages such as Vetrap.
  • Gauze squares at least three inches by three inches (where horses are concerned, larger is better!).
  • Vaseline or another type of lubricating jelly (for the thermometer and for protecting the tender skin of your horse’s heels from chapping if you have to cold-hose a leg injury for several days).
  • Medical adhesive tape.
  • Gauze bandage such as Kling.
  • Some type of cold pack, for days when cold hosing a new injury just isn’t possible—chemical packs that create "instant cold" are available, although in a pinch you can use a bag of frozen peas from your freezer.
  • Stable bandages and quilts.
  • An antiseptic wound cream (yellow furacin ointment is a popular choice) and a spray-on wound treatment such as furazolidone or Topagen.
  • Hydrogen peroxide—its bubbling action is useful for cleaning dirt out of fresh wounds and for dealing with thrush (a fungal infection of the hooves), but don’t use it routinely on a healing wound as it will inhibit the healing process.
  • An antiseptic scrub such as Betadine (povidone-iodine, or "tamed" iodine) or Nolvasan (chlorhexidine).
  • Latex gloves.(consider latex-free just in case anyone treating your horse has a latex allergy.)
  • A flashlight to help you see wounds in a gloomy stall at midnight.
  • A bottle of saline solution—useful for cleaning out wounds in delicate places like around the eyes. A bottle of contact lens saline solution with a squirt nozzle is perfect.
  • A roll of sterile cotton.
  • Pre-moistened alcohol swabs (you can find these at your pharmacy, individually wrapped)—good for cleaning small wounds or creating a cleaner site for injections.
  • A bottle of rubbing alcohol, for sterilizing instruments.
  • Forceps or tweezers, for removing splinters, ticks, or other nasties.
  • Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate)—mix with warm water to soak an abscessed foot.
  • Iodine shampoo—good for various skin conditions, as directed by your vet.
  • A quick-to-apply poultice such as Animalintex (which can be used hot or cold).
  • Thick sanitary napkins (the obstetrical pads you can get at a hospital or pharmacy are good) or disposable diapers, for applying direct pressure to a bleeding wound.
  • A hoof pick—you can never have too many.
  • A farrier’s rasp and nippers, for removing a shoe if you need to (ask your farrier if he has cast-off ones he can donate to your cause).
  • A hoof knife.
  • Duct tape—useful in any emergency, and especially good for hoof wraps, as it’s water-resistant, moldable, and fairly durable.
I am proud to say I have just about everything on that list in my first aid kit.  And almost morbidly proud to say I've used it all!  The article also makes suggestions beyond the basics and I plan on checking out some additions to my kit.  A few extras I have in my first aid kit:
  • a roll of garbage bags - makes any bucket a clean bucket
  • a couple tubes of electrolytes
  • safety razors
  • human first aid supplies
  • antiseptic wipes (in addition to alcohol wipes)
I have also recently ordered Dr. Eleanor Kellon's book on basic first aid for horses.

So, have you checked your first aid kit recently?  Might be the time to do so.

*The Horse may require registration to view the article. Registration is free and the site is an invaluable resource as all articles are veterinarian approved.

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