Axillary Wounds in Horses

Date Published: 06/20/2005
Date Reviewed/Revised: 07/21/2015

Horses commonly develop wounds in various areas of their bodies, and some areas heal better than others. One type of wound can cause an unusual side effect to develop. Lacerations that occur under the horse's front leg, between the front leg and the body wall, are not uncommon and require some special treatment to heal correctly. Treating these wounds requires cleaning and exploration, just like any other wound. However, suturing these wounds is difficult as sutures usually do not hold. Many of these wounds are up to eight inches deep because the tissue separates between the foreleg and the body wall.

The main concern about these wounds is that the tissue around them can act as a one-way valve that allows a large amount of air to be sucked into the wound. However, the air cannot exit, so many of these horses will develop large amounts of air under their skin. Some can have so much air there that it appears as if an air compressor hose was placed under the skin and the horse was inflated. Even though these horses look really weird when this happens, most of the time the air will be resorbed and the horse will be okay. However, it is possible that the air can enter the chest cavity, and large amounts of air there can be deadly. For this reason, it is important to pack these wounds and partially suture them as well as suturing a bandage over the wound to prevent air from entering. Strict stall rest is important to prevent air from entering the wound. If your horse has a laceration on the front leg between the leg and the chest, call your vet because if not treated correctly, these wounds can be a serious problem.

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