Signs of infection in horses: How to treat infected horse

The instinct of horses is to move away from alarming dangers, regardless they are vulnerable to getting injuries. The chance of injuries to horses is equal in the stable and riding ground. You might have observed athletic horses crossing hurdles easily and getting hurt while sleeping in the barn. Such accidental injuries can cause deeper and more painful infected wounds if not treated on time.

It is essential to evaluate the severity of wounds by the signs of infection in horses before opting for the effective treatment of the infection.

How Does a Horse Wound Get Infected?

Most of the horse wounds heal on their own with the maintenance of hygiene and nutrition. The complication arises with not sought after long-standing open wounds. In open wounds which are more than a scratch or abrasion, the chances of getting infection are higher.

Opportunistic bacteria are always present on the body surface of animals and humans. These bacteria interfere with the immunity of the animal and make their way inside the body through an open wound.

What are the Signs of Infection in Horses?

You must remain concerned about the wound and healing process until we cure it, especially if it contracts an infection.

You just need to keep a sharp eye on signs of infection in horses. After validating the signs, you can go with the effective treatment, plan for your horse.

Here are some common signs of wound infection in horses:

1. Signs of inflammation

Don’t be confused, inflammation is a sign of healing and infection. The area around the wound will exhibit more temperature than the surrounding body's surface. The swelling would rather increase with time if it had already set the infection.

To condense, if a wound in the early stage is showing such inflammatory signs, then it must be part of the healing process. But if the signs of inflammation get worse, then you must call your vet immediately, to begin with the treatment of infection.

2. Odor from the wound

A distinct odor is evident from a wound. You may differentiate the foul smell as pungent rotten egg, or fishlike. If your olfaction power alarms you, then it’s the time.

3. Color of skin around the wound

The wound's depth and infection length cause the skin around it and the discharge to change colors.

If the skin flap around the infected wound gets redder or purplish, it’s a confirming sign of infection.

4. Discharge from the wound

Like the inflammation signs, wound discharge is also a normal sign of the healing process. You need not worry if your horse's wound is showing a clear or slight creamy discharge.

The problem starts with wound yellow pus or green pus with other signs, including a foul smell.

5. Persisting pain

If your horse is denying the normal touch, especially over the wound? Persisting pain is because of the delayed healing of chronic wounds.

How to Treat Infection in Horses

Some accidents are unavoidable and so are the wounds in horses. We can be concerned about the complete healing of the wounds and their management before setting off the advanced infection.

You can interpret the infected wound in horses by observing the combination of signs of infection in horses as mentioned above.

Call your veterinarian for medical help and follow these steps to manage the infection.

1) Clean the wound and the surrounding area

It is essential to flush the wound with water (cold or normal) or normal saline to remove the external debris. You must nicely clean the surrounding area to gain control of the gunk reaching the wound opening.

2) Apply antiseptic over the wound

After flushing, put some antiseptic ointment or spray around the wound to prevent the proliferation of potent bacteria, viruses, and other microbes on the wound site.

This is the primary line of defense you can create unless you get the veterinarian in your place.

Remember to maintain antisepsis over the wound and adjoining area when applying antiseptic ointment through the hand. You can wash and sanitize your hands or wear sterile gloves before doing so.

The antiseptic spray is the best alternative for avoiding further contamination of wounds.

3) Dressing the wound

The decision to apply a dressing must be of your vet after analyzing the wound infection and severity. Some wounds heal as open wounds. Open wounds are faster to heal than closed wounds.

Your veterinarian will decide the need for dressing and the way to do it. The dressing of infected and larger wounds needs more attention. Sometimes dressing may not have the adequate coverage and pressure that it needs creating a bigger problem. It ultimately delays healing rather than fastening it.

4) Call your vet for help

Infected horse wounds require continuous treatment and observation until symptoms decrease. As a concerned horse owner, for every minor wound, you can call your vet and understand the line of treatment.

Infection in horses will subside with effective topical, parenteral, and oral medication. Let your vet decide what is best for your horse.


Q1 - What causes infection in horses?

Ans- Multiple bacteria are the natural inhabitants of the horse’s body. They enter through the discontinuity of the skin or wound and cause infection. This infection can be moderate to severe depending on the exposure time and number of invading microbes.

Q2 - How to treat a wound infection in horses?

Ans- Start with the flushing of the wound and surrounding skin with normal or cold water. Remove all the dirt, foreign particles, and extra skin flaps from the edges of the wound. Spray the antiseptic over the wound. Do dressing of the wound if needed. Call your vet for expert help.

Q3 - How to differentiate between healing and infected wounds in horses?

Ans- Signs of inflammation would be common for healing an infected wound. But it is a warning sign if the swelling and heat continue to increase. Pay attention to the pungent odor along with the yellow pus discharge from the wound.

Q4 - Is Betavine good for horse wounds? 

Ans-You can use diluted Betadine (weak Betadine solution) on wounds. In addition, you can use Betadine solution for foot injuries that penetrate the skin, and veterinarians often use it as a general antiseptic.


Small wounds on your horse can heal with little care and management. But the infected wounds in horses need your vet’s help and proper treatment schedule.

You may notice the delayed healing and discoloration of the margins of the wound as red or purplish. The offensive odor and increasing swelling of the wound would mark the setting of a chronic wound. Clear or slight creamy exudate is normal in wound healing, but yellow pus discharge can point toward the worsening of the situation.

For primary management, you can flush the wound with saline and clean the edges of the wound. Put some antiseptic ointment or spray in and around the wound. Do the dressing if needed. Contact your vet immediately if you notice any signs of infection.

Observation and action can help you fight horse infections functionally.


Dr Akanksha Agnihotri is another animal lover like you cum veterinarian by profession. She has earned her B.V.Sc & AH from COVS & AH, Jabalpur, India. She has a knack for befriending animals/pets and treating them compassionately. She believes...