If there's one good thing about winter, it's that you don't have to deal with insects bothering wounds. This does eliminate one source of wound infections. However, the benefits stop there.
In many other ways, winter weather is no friend to equine skin. You can fight compromised healing by preventing tissue dehydration with oil/wax based salves and ointments and taking advantage of many helpful actions of herbal ingredients.
The cold, dry air in winter leads to a major cause of delayed tissue healing and dehydration. A moist environment is important for cells to migrate across the wound and for white cells to do their work cleaning up the wound. Suturing wounds that warrant it, and keeping other wounds covered with a protective ointment on the wound, will guard against dehydration.
The cold itself can also be a problem because blood flow is decreased to the skin in cold weather. Inflammation helps counteract that in the early stages of healing, but once that calms down, in 3 to 5 days, blood flow is not as good as in warmer weather. This slows healing by inhibiting cell migration and can also mean the difference between death or survival of areas of skin that have a damaged blood supply from the injury.
Because of the detrimental effects of cold, dry weather, wounds need more protection. Even small skin breaks in areas with a lot of movement, like the heels and pasterns, can quickly become painfully deep cracks. (Keep an eye out for wounds on your small animals too and regularly check their paws for cracking.)
- Good choices for holding in moisture on wounds are ointments and salves without a water base. Look for petrolatum, beeswax and oils.
- Help with temporary irritation and discomfort comes from ingredients like Arnica, Chamomile, Comfrey, Calendula, Witch Hazel, Plantain, White Willow Bark, Golden Seal and Vitamin E.
- Natural ingredients with antiseptic advantages include Tea Tree Oil, Oregon Grape, Echinacea, Gentian, Sodium Copper Chlorophyllin and all essential oils.
- Protect delicate new skin with the antioxidant benefits of Chaparral, Burdock and St. John's Wort.
For wounds on the lower legs, apply a generous amount of salve after cleaning gently with warm water, then cover with several layers of gauze (never use cotton on open wounds), then a standing leg wrap. To avoid having your gauze slide down inside the wrap, use a dab of your wound dressing to hold the gauze layers together, and also to hold it where you want it inside your leg cotton wrap, then apply the wrap as usual. Check and rebandage once a day for the first few days, or until drainage has stopped.
Tip: For ease of use and your horse's comfort, do not store wound products in the cold, including in tack trunks. Keep them in a heated room and when working on your horse place them inside your clothes as close to your body as possible until you are ready to use them.
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, offers formulas to support winter skin care.
C4G Ointment is a soothing, emollient with protective herbs and minerals for use on sores, cuts, scabs, abrasions, dry skin, rubs, and cracked heels. Forms a water-resistant barrier to prevent drying and preserve skin flexibility, while supporting normal tissue rejuvenation. Arnica supports a normal inflammatory response and Calendula helps ease discomfort caused by temporary skin irritation.
Skin Rescue Salve. This powerful salve has water-resistant staying power to help ease discomfort from temporary skin irritation with Tea Tree Essential Oil, Olive Leaf and Calendula Flower. Comfrey and Plantain Leaf provide soothing emollient and astringent support, while Lavender Flower and Essential Oil provide antioxidant support. Skin Rescue Salve-Sensitive is for light colored or sensitive skin.
Tea Tree Salve is perfect for the horse in wet, humid conditions. Gentle, all-natural salve helps maintain healthy skin with soothing, drying support and a tough protective shield. Provides astringent action to help dry irritated skin and promote normal skin micro flora. Infused with 11 herbs and essential oils.
Uckele Health & Nutrition, maker of CocoSoya, is an innovation-driven health company committed to making people and their animals healthier. On the leading edge of nutritional science and technology for over 50 years, Uckele formulates and manufactures a full spectrum of quality nutritional supplements incorporating the latest nutritional advances. For more information visit www.uckele.com.
Dr. Eleanor Kellon, staff veterinary specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition, is an established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, and a founding member and leader of the Equine Cushings and Insulin Resistance (ECIR) group, whose mission is to improve the welfare of horses with metabolic disorders via integration of research and real-life clinical experience. Prevention of laminitis is the ultimate goal.