When a horse sustains a serious leg injury, it is sometimes necessary to stabilize the limb and control bleeding and swelling until your veterinarian arrives. A pressure bandage is an effective first aid tool that can be used to accomplish this task.
Keep in mind, however, that any leg injury serious enough to require a pressure bandage is serious enough to require immediate professional attention. You should also recognize that pressure bandages can be potentially harmful if not applied correctly. If you know how to correctly apply a pressure bandage, you can come to the horse’s aid without causing further damage.
The purpose of the pressure bandage is to protect the injured area and control bleeding without constricting normal circulation.
The severity or type of injury will determine the best course of action. If there is an open wound with profuse bleeding – or it appears that a major blood vessel has been cut (blood appears to spurt not trickle) – your primary concern will be to stop the bleeding. You will probably need to forego cleaning and apply pressure to the wound immediately.
If bleeding is light to moderate, it may be best to cleanse the wound using cool running water from a hose prior to bandaging. Avoid prolonged hosing (not more than 10-12 minutes) as it may increase swelling. A commercially available sterile saline solution or a solution of 2 tablespoons plain table salt to one gallon of water can also be used.
Ideally the saline solution should be applied with pressure to loosen and flush dirt and debris from the wound. Avoid scrubbing as this may further damage tissue, increase bleeding, or drive dirt and debris deeper into the wound.
An antibacterial soap can be used to wash the surrounding area, but care should be taken to avoid getting soap into the wound itself.
Stress or traumatic injuries, such as bowed tendons, will benefit from being hosed or iced for 5-10 minutes prior to applying a pressure bandage.
If an open wound is involved, gauze pads, a clean cotton washcloth, sanitary pads or other sterile non-stick dressing should be placed over the wound.
Do not use sheet or roll cotton directly against a wound. While cotton is absorbent and provides excellent padding, the fibers will stick to the tissue and contaminate the wound.
Once the wound is covered, you should use roll cotton, sheet cotton or leg quilts to pad the bandage.
Adequate padding is essential to distribute pressure evenly around the limb. Padding should be at least 2 inches thick. This will allow you to apply sufficient tension to the support bandage to control bleeding and swelling. The extra padding will also absorb drainage
Generally, the longer a bandage is to remain in place, the greater the amount of padding needed.
Track or polo wraps, cotton flannels, roll gauze, 3MTM™, Vetrap™, Bandaging Tape, Elastikon™, Ace™ bandages or even duct tape can be used for the external (pressure) layer.
Bandaging material should be at least 2-3 inches wide. This will help prevent a tourniquet effect and allow for sufficient overlap of the layers.
Using stretch fabric makes bandaging easier, allows for movement, and is less apt to restrict circulation as long as it is not pulled too tightly.
If you have never bandaged a horse’s legs, ask your veterinarian or an experienced equine professional to demonstrate the proper techniques. Practice under his or her supervision before doing it on your own. Follow these basic guidelines:
This brochure was produced through a joint venture between 3M Animal Care Products and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.