Proud Flesh in Horses

If you follow my blog on Facebook, then you may remember a picture I posted a couple of weeks ago of a non-healing wound on a horse’s leg.  The owner of the horse was desperately seeking answers and had written to me for help.  I’m not sure if something else was going on as well, but it was obvious from the picture that proud flesh was definitely an issue.

Years ago, I dealt with a nasty bout of proud flesh on my mare, Lee Lee. It started with what appeared to be a fairly minor abrasion on one of her back legs, but it soon exploded with proud flesh. It wasn’t the worst case I’ve ever seen, but it was bad enough that I took her to my vet.  He suggested removing the proud flesh, so that’s what we did.  After that, I cleaned and scrubbed it on a daily basis (if I remember correctly) and kept it wrapped.  It healed up just fine.

 

What is proud flesh?

Though proud flesh can appear like a mutant life form taking over your horse’s body, it’s actually not as bad as it seems.  Believe it or not, it’s a part of the normal healing process called granulation-where cells replicate in order to fill in the wound with new tissue.  But sometimes, things can go a little haywire and you have abnormal wound healing, aka exuberant granulation or what we know as proud flesh.

 

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Proud flesh appears like a non-healing, red or pink fleshy mass. It usually occurs in open wounds (as opposed to sutured wounds) and is especially prevalent on the lower limbs for several reasons:

  • excessive movement of the healing tissue;
  • very little soft tissue coverage around wound;
  • contamination/ infection of wound (due to location); and
  • reduced blood supply in the lower legs.

To make matters worse, it also seems that horses  have a special knack for producing granulation tissue at a much more rapid rate than most animals.  Hence, the issues we often see.

 

Preventing Proud Flesh

Since proud flesh occurs after a wound or injury of some kind, preventing it involves taking action as quickly as possible. The best idea is to clean the wound daily and keep it wrapped with gauze or cotton underneath and an elastic bandage on top (like Vetrap).  We often hear about the benefits of letting wounds heal in the open air, but this is not usually a good idea with lower leg wounds.

 

Treating Proud Flesh

If you’re like I was the first time I dealt with proud flesh, you may not really pay attention until it’s already become a problem.  I honestly had no idea back then that a superficial abrasion could turn into something so gross.

 

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You will likely want to involve your vet to first make sure there is not an infection going on.  Then, depending on how bad the proud flesh is, your vet may want to remove it surgically.  The good news is that proud flesh has no nerve supply so this can be done without anesthesia (but your vet may choose to use anesthesia anyways–mine did).

If the proud flesh isn’t too terrible, most vets will prescribe a topical steroid which will prevent the granulation from growing.  Keeping it wrapped is still advised since the pressure from the bandage will prevent the proud flesh from growing.

Hydrotherapy is always a good idea–just make sure the wound is dry before wrapping it again.

After awhile, the wound will stop swelling and healthy skin should appear – you can stop bandaging at this point, but you will probably want to continue applying whichever topical you’ve chosen to use.

 

Home Remedies for Proud Flesh

Dozens of topical home remedies were suggested on my Facebook post.  I do not have personal experience using any of them (on proud flesh specifically), so I honestly don’t know how well they work.  But here are a few you may want to check out:

 

When dealing with proud flesh, patience and diligence are your best friends.  Don’t give up on treating it and don’t hesitate to involve your vet if things don’t ‘feel’ right to you.

 

Sources and Further Reading

Equine Proud Flesh

Proud Flesh

Holistic Veterinary Advice

 

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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10 Responses

  1. Vicki Pinner says:

    My mustang, Tonka, had proud flesh. The very best thing ever was Underwood’s medicine. They do not sell it in Virginia; I had to order it from Oklahoma where they make it themselves. It is amazing. You spray it on, and then you put baking powder on top. You do NOT wrap or wash it. Go to http://www.underwoods.com to check it out.

  2. Jennifer Brock says:

    I have been healing local horses for decades with black pepper. Its sterile and regulates healing so that no proud flesh develops. Please see my public facebook note on it and photos and testimonials. IMO this is the only way to heal wounds as its a no fuzz method that works

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/jennifer-lynn-brock/healing-horse-wounds-with-black-pepper/10150507372175968

    • Vicki Pinner says:

      Question: Suppose you discover proud flesh that is old? We had a mustang that we took in from a rescue. We discovered proud flesh, and we treated it with Underwoods which shrunk it, but did not get rid of it totally. Have you ever tried to Black Pepper treatment on proud flesh?

  3. Jennifer Brock says:

    no fuss … not fuzz … oops

  4. Marilyn Daniels says:

    My horse had a cut under her front leg were all the wrinkles are and it took me a long time to heal it ,then she started getting little open sores around her body I have them also heal now she has raw sores in between her back legs and they look very raw and sore ,I do try to put wound coat on her but it is hard because we’re it is her legs rub together and make it more sore . so my question is would water apple cider vinegar and coffee hurt her back in that spot?

    • Casie says:

      Hi Marilyn, Could it be summer sores? I’m not sure I would put apple cider vinegar on those (maybe diluted). And what’s the purpose of the coffee? If it is summer sores, I know deworming with ivermectin is often recommended.

  5. Mary says:

    I never ever wrap a open wound, especially on lower legs. Setting yourself up for failure. I’ve taken care of some really nasty wounds… the trick is irritating the wound to bleed, daily. If there are flaps of skin, cut them off… don’t suture them together, it just won’t hold. Make sure the edges of the wound at the hairline don’t form a scab, it if does you aren’t dressing it properly. Get the scab off as gently as possible. Might take you 10 minutes to soak with betadine and water to soften it enough that it will peel off. The skin next to the hairline should be pink and will begin to grow over the wound, with hair growth following it. This is where the healing starts from, the hairline. Most people aren’t aggressive enough to keep the proud flesh from forming on the interior of it. Irritation aids in bring circulation to the area to heal. I only have to clean once a day. Depending on how the wound is healing, I might let it go a day. Sometimes letting it form a scab for a day aids in the irritation during removal when you clean it. I scrub lightly enough but aggressively enough to get it to bleed a bit, then pat dry, spray with Hydrogen Peroxide, let it sit for a minute or two, rinse, pat dry and then apply a iodine dressing salve (Biozide or even Silvadene). Horse gets turned out to do whatever horses do. I have yet to see a suture hold a lower leg wound successfully. (In fact, I haven’t seen a suture hold any wound on a horse successfully, just because horses are weird creatures that don’t like being still for long or stall bound.) Been doing this for 30+ years and rarely have any scarring… maybe the tiniest hairline scar, which the hair will cover. You have to part the hair to even find the scar. If you’re squeamish about this treatment, then you need to find someone that isn’t afraid to attack the wound correctly. Vets are always wanting to suture things together, wrap them and keep the horse stall bound. This is nonsense. They do it to make the owner feel like they’ve done something good. There are times when you may have to tranquilize the horse initially to keep the wound clean, because it does hurt when you clean and some horses are just overly sensitive to it, but as time progresses, you’ll need less and less. Things heal from the inside out. Inside the wound and inside the hairline. If you remember that fact, then you’ll be successful.

  6. Melanie says:

    I have used PF Wonder Salve after getting rid of sarcoid. Next time you have to deal with something like this, check out them out for proud flesh. The case studies are mind blowing. It works really fast. Be sure to check the injury photos. http://www.pfwondersalve.com/ 🙂

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