HYDROTHERAPY - Healing wounds and controlling infection


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Emma Hawthorne - Proprietor and Treatment Manager at Flawborough Equine Rehabilitation Centre - explains how hydrotherapy can complement conventional veterinary treatment and help speed up the healing process of wounds.
Due to the horses inquisitive nature, a well developed flight response, their large size and the fact that they are commonly confined in areas with potential obstacles, it is not surprising that accidents happen. And, some horses seem to be more accident prone than others.
Wounds can range in severity from a simple graze, cut or scrape to a puncture wound or laceration which can involve large areas of the body.  
At a glance a wound can be deceiving.  Large wounds bleed profusely and may not be as bad as they first seem - if they only involve superficial structures. In contrast, a small wound near a joint or tendon can be much worse causing serious complications. 
Healing wounds requires the inflammation and the micro-organic cause of infection to be eliminated.

 So why Hydrotherapy?Spa picture 
Sometimes the nature of the injury will mean that bandaging is not possible. Here the Spa comes into its own with speed of healing being paramount so that no further infection occurs.
Cold water hydrotherapy helps in speeding up the process of healing of wounds. 

The water is kept at 20 degrees, which firstly takes out heat in the affected area.

High levels of salts act as a poultice, help draw out infection and create an additional
cooling effect.

The depth of water applies pressure to the injured area and aeration acts as massage, encouraging
circulation and healing

As well as being salty, the water is chlorinated and filtered for hygiene. 

The image below indicates the benefit of Spa Treatments on a severe barbed wire injury over a 101 day period
barb wire_injury 
 Case Study: Using Hydrotherapy to help treat Canker
Canker is a severe bacterial condition affecting the outer tissues of the foot, frog, bars, heels, sole of the foot and the coronary band - it can also spread up the leg. Canker can often be confused with mud fever and thrush and is most commonly seen in heavier types of horses, e.g. cobs and heavy horses.  The horn and frog area become ragged and infected, bleeding easily - and the foot can have an unpleasant odour.  There are variable degrees of lameness.
Canker 3_beforeCanker 2_beforeCanker 1_before
Above images are pre treatment

How Hydrotherapy helped heal
 A 16 year old coloured cob diagnosed with chronic canker, which had been difficult to control over period time and had progressed into the coronet band causing infection.  The horse had undergone several conventional treatments with antibiotics, however her wounds were still weeping, there was excessive growth on the coronary band and the skin below the fetlock had become infected where it had grown excessively and folded over causing infection between the folds.
The horse was put through the Spa each day for 5 days. On day 6, she was sedated by the vet, the hair on her lower legs clipped and both legs and hooves were cleaned and the wounds debrided removing the excess flesh allowed the wound to stay flat giving more opportunity for the edges of the skin to close more quickly. 
This was followed by further three days of Spa treatments, after which the vet and remedial farrier cut away the dead hoof, we then continued spa treatment for another 3 days, in addition with Clean Tracks (Deep penetrating hoof cleanser) treatments. 
Hydrotherapy speeded up the healing process. The horse was sent home with a treatment plan:  Keep feet clean and dry, clean tracks weekly for 4 weeks, good farriery and an on-going monthly spa treatment recommended.
Canker 5_postCanker 6_post
The above images are post the treatment

The prognosis of this condition is reasonable good if diagnosed early but this case highlights how Canker can become chronic and then require ongoing careful management. 
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Vet Charlotte Murray BVSc. MRVCS of Home 
Farm Equine comments 
We have seen an outstanding improvement in the speed of wound healing once Spa therapy has been initiated.  This is specially observed in non healing wounds and wounds in awkward places such as knees, hocks and areas at the back of pastern.  We often recommend Spa treatment to aid wound healing.

For more rehabiltation articles click on links below

Please contact us for further information or to arrange a visit:
Flawborough Equine Rehabilitation Centre, Hall Farm, Flawborough, Nottinghamshire NG13 9PA 
Telephone 01949 850332 www.flawboroughequine.co.uk