4 Common Horse Emergencies And How To Treat Them

The horse is one of the most magnificent creatures on earth. It’s also one of the most versatile, serving as a source of food and transportation and a beloved companion and show animal. Even though horses are known for their hardiness and resilience, they can still experience some common emergencies that require treatment by a veterinarian or other qualified equine professional.

If you own a horse or are even just around them, there’s a chance you might encounter an emergency. Here are some common emergencies with horses and how to treat them:

  • Laminitis

Laminitis is an inflammation of the laminae, the fibrous tissues between the bones in the hoof, that can be due to bacterial infection, fungi, or trauma. It occurs when your horse’s bloodstream has imbalanced glucose and insulin levels.

If your horse has laminitis in the hooves, he will experience severe pain in his feet and may try to paw at them with his front legs. He will also lose his balance quickly because of the pain and swelling that comes with this condition.

The first step in treating laminitis is removing the horse from its surroundings and placing it in a quiet area where it can rest and recuperate. Most cases resolve on their own with rest and proper nutrition. However, some may require additional supportive care, such as exercise and medication. In addition, your veterinarian may recommend hoof trimming to help relieve pressure on the coffin bone that can result from laminitis.

Woman veterinarian gives an injection to horse in stable
  • Cuts And Wounds

Cuts and wounds are common in horses but also considered serious. A cut or untreated wound can quickly become infected and cause severe problems for your horse. 

Clean the wounded area thoroughly. Use warm water plus mild soap to clean dirt and bacteria from the wound. If debris remains in the wound after cleaning, your vet may need to rinse it with saline solution or hydrogen peroxide before applying bandages or sutures.

Apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infection, then place a sterile bandage over it to keep germs out of the area until healing occurs. If the wound is larger than 2 inches, your vet may recommend using stitches instead of tape or glue to close it properly.

  • Colic

Colic refers to any pain or discomfort in the abdomen that causes a horse to become distressed or unwell. It may be caused by problems in the digestive system such as a twisted intestine, called intussusception or impaction of the bowel, called impaction. Colic may also result from problems in the digestive tract, such as heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach ulcers, gastric torsion, or other diseases that affect the intestines.

Determining if it’s an impaction or inflammation of the large intestine is the first step in treating colic. An impact occurs when something like a stone or twig blocks the intestine. Meanwhile, inflammation happens when there’s no blockage, but the horse has gas in its intestines that causes pain when it expands.

To treat impaction, your vet will give your horse an enema to flush out whatever obstructs his colon. For inflammation, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics and pain medication for several days to help the horse feel better until it passes whatever was irritating its intestinal tract.

Veterinarian examining horse leg tendons
  • Eye Injury

The eye is a fragile body part that can be injured in many ways. Among the most common horse emergencies are eye injuries. Eye injuries can occur from trauma, such as being kicked by another horse or falling on something sharp, or they can happen simply through lack of care or neglect.

When you notice that your horse has an eye injury, use a cold compress to reduce swelling and keep the area clean. You can use wet towels or washcloths gently applied to the eye to help reduce swelling and flush out debris to avoid infections. If there’s any evidence of bleeding in the eye, raise the eyelids using your fingers so you can see into the eye better. If there’s any sign of hemorrhaging under the conjunctiva, call your veterinarian as soon as possible because it may mean your horse needs surgery to stop internal hemorrhaging before it becomes too severe.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever had a horse, then you know that it can be unpredictable. Horses can get sick and injured anytime, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s wrong with them. These are just some of the most common emergencies that might happen to them, along with ways to treat them. For further assistance, you may contact your vet to seek professional help with your horse’s injury.


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