Ask the Vet: Are you prepared?

Accidents happen (especially when there are horses involved). It’s our job as horse owners to be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. This week, Dr. Jen Johnson shows us how to assemble a well-stocked equine first-aid kit.

From Jen:

Are you prepared?

 The horse world experienced some tremendous losses over Memorial Day weekend. Our hearts go out to the families and connections of Dr. Craig Ferrell, Ulando, Icarus, and Jude’s Law. When faced with news of such tragedies, our minds inevitably wander to the “What Ifs”? Being prepared for an emergency, whether it’s a trailer accident or a pasture injury, can save time, energy, stress, money and lives. In this column, I will share with you what I consider to be the contents of a well-stocked Equine First Aid Kit. This list is by no means exhaustive and please feel free to share your favorite products in the comments section.

One benefit of a well-stocked equine first aid kit is that it can be used for people and other animals too. Once, while at a horse trial, I was asked to splint a kitten’s broken leg – you just never know! There are some really excellent Equine First Aid kits that can be purchased already assembled, and come in handy carrying cases. But, if want the thrill of assembling one for yourself, I’ve put together a shopping list to help you on your way. Most of these items can be found at your local pharmacy or feed store. Even better, support HN’s sponsor SmartPak and get everything you need in one stop. Invest in a tackle box or soft-sided bag with compartments for greatest organization, and you’re all set!

In addition to the supplies listed below, take some time to review basic first aid in a safe environment. Get comfortable taking your horse’s temperature, pulse and respiratory rate. Another essential skill is safely placing a standing wrap or lower limb bandage. If you’re really adventurous, practice placing an upper limb or stacked wrap. Unsure of your skills? Ask your coach, friend, vet tech or veterinarian for a tutorial or some helpful hints. Most people are more than willing to help out and then, once you’re confident in your skills, you can pay it forward by teaching someone else.

If you’re ever faced with an emergency, the most important things are to stay calm and stay safe. Keep yourself out of harm’s way and try to work from the spine side of the down horse (to avoid flailing legs). Ask for help early if you need it, and, although it is difficult, wait for assistance to arrive. Also, if you don’t own a truck or horse trailer, consider approaching friends, neighbors or barn mates to see if you can borrow what you need in case of an emergency. Nothing is worse than scrambling at the last minute trying to find a ride for an injured or sick horse.

The Basics

  • First Aid Book
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly (lube thermometer, cover wound prior to clipping to keep hair out)
  • Rubber/latex gloves
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • Saline solution (such as contact solution, to rinse eye)
  • Betadine (Be sure to read dilution instructions)
  • 4×4 gauze pads (wound cleaning)
  • Non-stick pads
  • 1-2 Rolls cotton padding AND brown gauze –OR-
  • Quilt wraps AND outer standing wraps/track bandages
  • Epsom salts
  • Duct tape
  • Vet wrap
  • Scissors
  • White tape

Additional Useful Items

  • Stethoscope
  • Electrolyte paste
  • Instant ice packs
  • Blood stop powder
  • Shoe puller
  • Twitch
  • Animalintex poultice or diapers with Epsom salts or sugar/iodine
  • Nitrofurazone (or, if you prefer, Fura-Free or Magna-Paste) for sweat wrap
  • Saran wrap for sweat wrap
  • Linament
  • Clipper with #40 blade

Things to Get from your Vet

**Speak with your veterinarian about stocking up on these items. Some of the suggested items may not be appropriate for your horse. You should have a through understanding of how the medications are used, and an appropriate dose for your horse prior to using any of these items. Additionally, your veterinarian may suggest additional medications to keep on hand tailored to your horse’s specific needs.

  • Phenylbutazone “Bute”: Best for musculoskeletal pain/swelling
  • Banamine/ flunixin: Best for abdominal (colic) pain or fevers
  • Triple Antibiotic Eye Ointment: Be sure it does NOT contain steroids
  • Surpass: Topical anti-inflammatory
  • Uniprim/SMZs or other antibiotics
  • Dexamethazone/Azium: used for allergic reactions
  • Gastro or UlcerGard
  • Tranquilizer/sedation for treating wounds or in case of an accident

 About the author: Dr. Jen is a veterinarian, and an eventer and dressage rider. She been involved in horses in some form or another since she was 4 years old and has experience in gaming, pleasure, H/J and, for the last eight years, eventing and dressage. The majority of her practice has been with horses, both in referral centers and field service. She has also served as official show veterinarian for several horse trials and other shows in the Midwest.

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