Preventing Proud Flesh in Horses

Is there a topical medication that assists in the healing cuts to reduce scarring and proud flesh? My Arab has a 21″ cut – stitches were just removed. I always use vitamin E but was hoping there was something else to combine with the E? PD, Kansas

Dear PD,

Reducing scarring and proud flesh are two different questions, so I’ll address each separately. Proud flesh is an overgrowth of the normal tissue that fills in healing wounds. Also known as exuberant granulation tissue, it occurs most commonly with injuries on the lower legs of horses and can be recognized by its characteristic red, rough appearance. You don’t say where your horse’s wound is on the body but that makes a big difference when it comes to the likelihood of proud flesh developing as well as your options for preventing it. In some cases, a well-wrapped bandage over a specific type of ointment is all you need to prevent proud flesh or even reduce mild amounts of it that have already formed. Obviously, it’s more difficult to bandage wounds on the body than on the legs. And by “specific type of ointment” I mean one that discourages new tissue growth but is still gentle on the rest of the surrounding tissue. There are some pretty scary home remedies out there for proud flesh so it’s best to talk to your veterinarian before applying any ointments. He or she can guide you to the best ones for your horse’s situation, as well as devise a cycle of tissue-promoting vs tissue-discouraging that may provide just the right balance of healing required.

Now for reducing scarring. This is a frustrating issue in horses and people alike, as some individuals just seem to scar more than others. When it comes to horses however, a skin scar usually means the hair doesn’t grow back in that area or it grows back white, two unacceptable scenarios especially for people who compete with their horse. While you should definitely voice this second concern to your veterinarian (who may be more focused on healing the wound instead of making it look nice, and rightly so), my advice is to keep the area as moist as possible once new skin has formed over the wound. I like your use of Vitamin E, and notice that human scarring formulas also contain Aloe Vera. Products containing Tea Tree Oil seem to work best in my horses. I think one of the most important things you can do to prevent scars though, is protect this new, vulnerable skin from sun damage. I gave some advice last year to a person whose white-faced chestnut horse suffered from sun burn, so I encourage you to read that post.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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Posted in Ask the Vet, Barn Skills, Skin, Coat & Hooves

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