This is a story I've been meaning to share since it happened. Meanwhile, I've continued to use the basic approach here with success. At the time it was a bit of a science experiment, which thankfully produced positive results. I'd be interested in comments from those of you who have had success with natural remedies for wound care as well. I also invited Dr. Kip Tulin, a Freedom Farm regular and retired physician, to comment below on the basics of this art. -MG
|Inflamed and draining, after weeks of bandaging.|
Unwilling to call it quits, I decided to get smarter and this was my new mission. I recalled that Manuka honey was antibacterial and effective against staph, as was exposure to air. I also called my friend Claudia Garner at Equine Soundness and texted her the picture. After hearing Joey's story—especially the part about his intolerance of bandages—Claudia suggested we try a bentonite clay poultice rather than bandaging.
- Used a dry terry cloth towel to gently debride the wound to remove dead tissue, getting down to the pink, slightly bleeding skin;
- Slathered Manuka honey deep inside and all across the wound;
- Applied a single layer of gauze over the whole thing (it stuck to the honey);
- Applied a layer of bentonite clay.
- Note: Soon I made the steps easier by mixing a couple of tablespoons of Manuka honey into the clay powder along with water, which worked as well.
In 3 weeks the giant crevices were closed and all drainage had stopped, something we had not achieved in our previous two attempts.
The poulticing process was so simple! It only took me a few minutes to replace the gauze and clay. I never washed it unless we were going to take a photo. Every other day, I'd take the last of the old, dislodged poultice off, and rub the wound with a terry cloth towel to clean up and debride. After the second week, proud flesh was no longer an issue, so I also stopped his oral antibiotics at that time.
|At 2 weeks, no sign of proud flesh.|
And so the wound stayed clear and proceeded to heal. Speaking of time to heal, I learned a lot of things along the way but this is kinda cool: a doctor friend informed me that the optimum healing time for a body is around 6 weeks post-injury; after that the body slows down the process. So in the next photo the wound was 4 months old and slowly closing at about a millimeter a day.
|At four months.|
Looking at the new hair growth around the site, I remembered that even before the second inflammation/infection event, we had been told that Joey would need a skin graft to ever have hair back on this part of his leg. Apparently not!
|Joey at far right, happy to be back in action.|
Some basic principles that apply to care for any wound:
- First, stop any bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. If you bleed to death the wound will not heal very well.
- Consider all wounds to be contaminated, especially in horses.
- Dirt and debris will greatly add to infections and poor healing, so first and foremost, irrigate, irrigate, and irrigate. Mary’s hosing out Joey’s leg wound was appropriate. You may also use a simple dilute solution of plain soap and water. (Note: not antibacterial soap—regular soap is basically a surfactant which can help free things up a bit, while antibacterials may kill tissue and encourage bacterial resistance.) If you can squirt the water and/or soap into the wound with some pressure it can help dislodge contaminants. Once you are done irrigating, irrigate some more. Oh, did I mention that irrigation is important?
- Never close a contaminated wound. It does better if it can drain.
- If hair is getting into the wound, clip around the wound, but do not shave it.
- The use of antibiotics is a judgement call based on the location/depth/contamination of the wound. In any case, they are not sufficient treatment without excellent basic care as described above.
- Bob the horse agrees that Manuka honey is a great idea. Honey was used in ancient civilizations as a battlefield wound treatment. It has antibacterial qualities. Read more here.
- Clays have been used for wound dressings throughout history. Bentonite clay is used in some modern medical dressings.
- And each time you clean off the clay and honey to redress the wound you are further debriding the wound itself and helping the healing process. A clean terry cloth towel is a great idea for this, gently but thoroughly rubbing off the dead tissue and getting down to the pink, slightly bloody layer.