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Medical Index
First Posted: July 4, 2007

Equine First Aid Kit

by Debora Johnson

In a moment of panic when you may discover that your horse has a real emergency it is important to have a ready first aid kit fully stocked and ready to use. I have one in the tack room that is kept in a fishing tackle box in a cool place. Every time we trailer it goes with us. It is easy to put in the car and takes up very little space. It has a handle and locks so there are no mishaps with the contents spilling out and breaking. A rubber or plastic bucket with a handle and securely attaching lid will also work quite well. So you might ask, "What should be in a full time Equine First Aid Kit that does double duty in the barn and on the road?"

Emergency Action at Home

  • Assess the situation rapidly
  • If dire, call the vet immediately
  • If you have time-Take the horse's temperature-Normal temperature is 99 degrees to 100.8 degrees
  • Check color in your horse's mouth tissues-gums and tongue. Are they pink or blue?
  • Check respiration. Is your horse breathing easily or in a labored way with his nostrils flaring?
  • Check for mucous in your horse's nose
  • Check to see if your horse has eaten all his feed
  • Is your horse acting listless or is there any personality change?
  • Is your horse staggering?
  • Is your horse refusing to get up?
  • Do a quick review of your horse to report to the vet when you call: eyes for blemishes, injuries, cloudiness, bleeding, punctures, discoloration, or swelling. His body for swelling, heat, wounds, or anything unusual, sweating, dehydration, shivers, staggers, etc. Check all openings: mouth, eyes, ears, nostrils, genitals, anus.
What Do I Keep In My Equine First Aid Kit?
  • This checklist in your kit for quick access and in the tack room near the phone. You will NOT have to think under stress just go down the check list as your heart is racing and you are feeling that panic we have all felt.
  • Vet's telephone number-locally
  • Travelling-Prepare telephone numbers for available equine vets along your route. This is especially important if tailoring longer distances
  • Digital thermometer-Safer than glass and mercury
  • KY Jelly is water based-NO petrol bases
  • Topical wound dressing
  • Bute paste (mark individual doses on tube with black permanent marker) Several doses for 1,000 lb. horse in each tube. No glass. No syringe. No needles needed.
  • Banimine paste (mark individual doses on tube with black permanent marker) Several doses for 1,000 lb. horse in each tube. No glass. No syringe. No needles necessary.
  • Scissors
  • Stethoscope-Have your vet explain how to listen for normal gut signs so you can may recognize colic gut sounds or absence of sounds. Most vets will do this at no extra charge during a yearly well visit. Mention it to the receptionist ahead of time so extra time can be allocated in the farm call.
  • Duct tape
  • Betadine scrub, solution or ointment
  • Neosporin for superficial wounds
  • Furacin spray for wounds that cannot be bandaged
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment for use in the eyes (DO NOT USE Steroid Ointments until the vet examines the horse. Steroids can cause irreparable damage under certain circumstances. (Mark an easy to read dosage where is can be easily read)
  • Saline Solution
  • Small sponges for wound cleaning
  • Sterile cotton balls
  • Epsom salts
  • Baby Diapers for excessive wound bleeding. I like these because they are already made up, easily portable, and have the fixative already on the dressing (diaper) No need to have tapes. They are also incredibly absorbent and easily changed.
  • Gauze
  • Vet wrap
  • Dosing syringe
  • Needles and syringes in case they are needed at some point. I do keep a glass vile of banimine on hand, always
  • I also keep an injectable antihistamine on hand, always
  • Towel that can be cut up if needed
  • Farrier tools (Rasp, nipper, cutter, puller)
  • Utility knife of some sort (L.L. Bean, Swiss Army Knife, etc.)
  • Water carrier filled with water from your horse's regular drinking source.

How Do You Use A Thermometer Safely?

  • Attach a string to the loop in the end of your equine thermometer in case you loose it in the horse's rectum especially if you choose to use a glass and mercury thermometer!
  • Make sure thermometer is clean
  • Put KY Jelly on thermometer so it inserts easily
  • Stand to the side of your horse so you don't get kicked
  • If someone else is with you have them hold your horse's lead or halter
  • Lift your horse's tail to the far side
  • Insert thermometer, but hold onto it so that you do not loose it
  • Wait for reading and make a notation of it for the vet
  • Remove thermometer
  • Clean thermometer after use in sudsy, warm water
  • Dry off thermometer
  • Return thermometer to a safe and protected place in kit

I always call the vet before giving any anti-inflammatory drugs or any painkillers. By administering these drugs the symptoms are often reduced or masked. After contacting the vet you will be advised as to what to do.

If there is a wound involved a cleaning can be done while waiting for the vet or a hosing. With profuse bleeding, pressure can be applied while you wait for the vet. It is advisable not to apply any salves, ointments, hydrogen peroxide, betadine or anything else because in order to stitch a wound it has to be clean from any foreign substance. The vet will take care of all that upon arrival.

Some Space Saving Thoughts

I have two areas for the above purpose. In a larger, stackable bucket I put all my larger objects and affix the lid. Under the lidded bucket I stack another bucket which can be used for many purposes including water for drinking, soaking, or even mucking. It is a utility purpose bucket and just sits under the carrier bucket. Of course, the carrier bucket is also available if necessary. Bulky items that stay put are in this bucket. I leave this in my pulling vehicle at all times. It does not take up much room. If you have a trailer that has a dressing room it could very easily stay there. Just be consistent so that you do not have to ever look for anything in a panic.

In the second carrying case (your choice) I use a tackle box because it is light, has a handle, is shaped well for drugs, has compartments to organize everything, it is easy to find everything without rooting through a mess. It works well for me. You can grab it and go. Some medications that you may be storing in it may have to be kept within certain temperature ranges. A smaller box as this can be put more easily in a cooler place for storage. I also make a quick list of the expiration dates on all the medications and check them twice a year when the vet comes to give Spring and Fall shots. If anything has to be updated or checked the vet is right there to confer as well as replenish the meds

I hope this has been helpful to you. It has been a lifesaver for several of our horses. If you have any suggestions or additions that will be helpful to anyone who reads this article, please e-mail from the home page with your comments and I will incorporate them into this listing. Everyone has to determine what their and the needs of their horses are, so this is meant to be a guide. Happy trails.

For More Information:

Danah Nuest, DVM/Greener Pastures Veterinary Clinic, Inc.

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