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.
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.
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:
- Manuka honey;
- French Green Clay;
- Red light therapy;
- Granulated sugar;
- Plain meat tenderizer;
- Preparation H;
- Coconut oil;
- Garlic powder;
- Essential oils (such as lavender, tea tree, or helichrysum); and/or
- Colloidal silver.
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