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Wounds over joints, tendon sheaths and penetrating body cavities

Wounds involving joints and tendon sheaths are always potentially life-threatening as infection in these structures can be extremely difficult to resolve even if undertaken very quickly. Inflammatory responses can result in joint surface or sheath membrane damage and, with associated infections, can cause long term or permanent incapacity. Ask your veterinarian if you are unsure whether a wound has penetrated a joint or sheath. He/she may wish to take a sample of joint or sheath fluid (joint or sheath tap) to test the cell count and the appearance of the cell types (cytopathology) to determine if the joint or sheath will need to be flushed with large quantities of sterile saline solution and antibiotics to remove the associated infection, its toxins and the inflammatory proteins. The sooner this is done following injury the better the chances for a successful recovery. Your veterinarian may wish to take x-ray pictures of the area to make sure that there are no fractures and to look for demonstrable foreign bodies.

Similarly, penetrating wounds into the chest and abdomen may cause immediate death or serious life- threatening complications. Wounds into the chest affect a horse‚Äôs ability to breathe and will result in the development of pleuropneumonia. Penetrating wounds into the abdominal cavity will result in the development of peritonitis and may cause damage to any of the internal organs. These cases, if resolvable, will need intensive treatment. Your veterinarian should be called immediately, stressing the emergency nature of the injury.