Natural Equine Wound Remedies
If you have horses, then chances are you’ve dealt with a wound or two before. Even in the cleanest of pastures, some horses just seem to be accident magnets. I know I’ve had a few like that over the years. Of course, with any bad wound, you’ll likely want to make a trip to the vet, but depending on the location and nature of the cut, sometimes, they can’t be stitched up.
So what’s a horse owner to do with an open wound? It can be confusing knowing what to clean or dress it with, if anything at all.
The last time I dealt with serious wounds, it was on two nearly-wild youngsters who’d gone through a fence (a number of years ago). One horse had cut her head, and you could see part of the skull (I still cringe thinking about it). The other horse had less severe wounds on a front and back leg (one of which eventually turned into some pretty nasty proud flesh).
At the time, a horse friend offered a mysterious homemade solution known only as ‘windshield wiper fluid’, which, indeed, did look like the liquid for which it was named. I didn’t question it–I simply sprayed it on the horses’ wounds. And they did heal up rather quickly.
Who knows what was really in that stuff, but these days, I feel more comfortable if I actually know what I’m putting on my horses. So I thought I’d gather a list of a few safe, effective, and natural equine wound remedies. (And who knows– the windshield wiper stuff could have been natural. . . but I doubt it!)
The truth is, many wounds will heal just fine on their own, but as horse caretakers, it makes us feel better to do something about it. We also don’t like to see ugly scars on our pretty horses, and I do believe that keeping a wound clean and adding a safe healing remedy (in many instances) will allow the wound to heal faster and leave less of a scar. Many of these remedies will also help to keep bacteria out of the wound and prevent proud flesh, as well.
Of course, I once used nitrofurazone for many a wound, but after learning about its cancer-causing effects, I’ve since decided to use other things.
Also, according to one vet (as cited in this article), “many of the topical treatments horse owners are accustomed to using for wound care, including nitrofurazone, hydrogen peroxide, and iodine-based paints and ointments, are actually worse than using nothing at all.”
However, the following remedies are safe and have been shown to be effective on equine wounds:
You’ve probably heard it before, but good old water therapy is great for healing wounds. When you add a constant flow of water with the hose, this cleans the wound, increases circulation, and stimulates tissue regeneration. Cold water also helps to decrease inflammation. Vets often recommend at least 20 minutes of hydrotherapy, several times a day on new injuries.
Honey (and not just the pricey, Manuka honey), has the ability to keep bacteria from growing on wounds. This might not be the sole thing you put on a wound, but it could certainly be helpful. This is a remedy you would likely only want to use in conjunction with bandaging. Otherwise, you’ll just be attracting dirt and insects!
Tea Tree, Oregano, and Eucalyptus Essential Oils
These three oils have actually been studied and proven to kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Because of that, they make great topical treatments for wounds. But keep in mind that essential oils, especially those placed on wounds, should always be diluted in a carrier oil. You will also want to opt for the 100% therapeutic grade oils (such as the ones from Mountain Rose Herbs).
Bandaging can be very important for lower leg wounds where proud flesh tends to be an issue. (Of course, this is likely the only area you can easily bandage on the horse, too.) But just the act of keeping pressure on a wound (and keeping dirt out) can prevent proud flesh and encourage healing. Using sterile gauze or foam padding as a base, you can then use vet wrap to securely wrap the wound. It will need to be taken off, irrigated, re-dressed, and re-wrapped every 24 hours. (Always consult your vet for wounds which aren’t healing.)
Of course, I will often use commercial products too occassionaly. One I’ve used lately and really like is Miller’s Equine Wound Salve, which is made with beeswax, grape seed oil and a blend of essential oils.
If you’ve had success with other natural remedies on horse wounds, feel free to share in the comments!
Sources and Further Reading