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Hurricane Ian: Emergency Horse Care

6 min read

Hurricane Ian: Emergency Horse Care

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian is still slowly being calculated and understood. Sadly, the damage is horrendous. Not only have people been hugely impacted by the event, but it has impacted horses and other companion and farm animals as well.

There are many different scenarios that lead to horses becoming stuck in flooded areas or otherwise impacted by the hurricane, but the end result is the same: an injured animal who needs careful care. When you return to your horse, you must know the basics of emergency horse care and have a good horse first aid kit on hand. 

Pre-Emergency Prep

There are several actions you can take prior to the emergency to better prepare yourself, your barn, and your horse for either evacuation or to hunker down. 

If you’re able to evacuate, practice loading your horse well before evacuation day. You never truly know how much time you’ll have to get to safety before a hurricane hits. These moments may be panicked, with people frantically packing and attempting to load horses as fast as possible. It’s easy for a horse to become anxious with all of this high energy going on. If your horse is an uncertain loader on a good day, they may not enter the trailer at all and have to be left behind. Practicing loading beforehand until your horse is an expert will ensure that on evacuation day they’ll get into the trailer quickly and efficiently. 

Take your horse’s vitals and record them in a notebook that will stay with your horse first aid kit. This ensures that when you’re in an emergency horse care situation, you’ll have a good understanding of what your horse’s vitals should be when they’re healthy. This way, you can compare their vitals to this baseline and get a better understanding of how they’re doing health-wise. 

Ensure that each horse has a halter and leadrope easily accessible. Stalled horses should have them in front of their stall, while pasture horses should have them near the gate or in a well-known and easily reached predetermined location. This ensures that if you have to evacuate your horses quickly, you’ll be able to do so. 

Prior to the emergency, store clean potable water for both horses and humans in trailers or in a safe location within the barn. Essential services like water may be damaged or otherwise inaccessible after a hurricane. Storing water beforehand ensures that you and your horse will have something to drink.  

Horse First Aid Kit

Prior to an emergency situation, it’s important to put together a comprehensive horse first aid kit. Store this kit in a waterproof box to ensure that the supplies inside will not be damaged, even if they’re caught in flood waters. If you evacuate the area, bring this box with you to ensure that it is not damaged or lost, even if you’re leaving your horse behind. This way, when you return to the area, you’ll be sure that you have all the supplies you need to help your horse. 

If you stay behind, keep your horse first aid kit with your human first aid kit in a location that is most likely to stay dry. But you should also keep it with you to ensure the supplies are not damaged or become inaccessible. For example, if you’re staying in your home, keep your horse first aid kit in a high location, such as the top floor of a house or on top of the fridge. If you’re staying in a local shelter, bring these kits with you.

Your horse first aid kit should include: 

  • Standing wraps and bandages
  • Notebook (for recording vitals)
  • Thermometer
  • Stethoscope
  • Saline solution
  • Betadine or similar
  • Diapers
  • Duct tape
  • Poultice
  • Hoof packing
  • Epsom salts
  • Hoof testers
  • Self-adhering bandage
  • Gauze
  • Clean rags or towels
  • Veterinarian-prescribed medications, such as Banamine
  • Topical cream or ointment, such as Zarasyl Equine

Most Common Injuries Post-Hurricane

Just after the emergency, your horse may seem fine. However, it’s important to remember that these horses have just experienced a large adrenaline spike. After a few days when the effects of this adrenaline wears off, their gut motility may be negatively impacted. Keep a close watch for signs of colic or poor gut health. 

Flying debris may have caused puncture wounds or eye injuries. Look over your horse closely to check for these types of wounds and take note if they’re squinting one or both eyes. 

Hoof wounds related to foreign objects are common after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. This is because damaged buildings and fence lines can leave harmful debris littering the ground, such as nails. 

Perhaps most common after a hurricane are injuries related to horses stuck in standing water. 

Flood water does not only carry harmful debris and trash, it also carries bacteria and fungi. This toxic soup creates the perfect situation for severe skin issues, particularly if the horse’s legs are submerged for a significant amount of time. Every little scrape that the horse sustains while in the water is an open door allowing bacteria to enter your horse’s body and possibly cause major problems. These horses are at increased risk of infection and sepsis. Horses who have been stuck in flood waters are also prone to develop fungal infections as far as six weeks out from the initial event. 

Like anything organic submerged in water for a significant period of time, these horses may also develop maceration, or softening, of the skin. This weakened dermal barrier makes them prone to develop skin conditions like pastern dermatitis. 

Emergency Horse Care

Unfortunately, you may return to your barn or home and find that veterinarians are unable to access your location. It’s also important to keep in mind that they are likely being inundated with emergency calls. This is why it’s so important to know the basics of emergency horse care. 

If you return and find your horse has been standing in flood waters, remove them to dry ground if possible. Check their vital signs and write them down in your notebook. Compare them to the baseline vitals you took prior to the emergency. Continue to check their vitals twice a day for the next few days. This will help you catch any infection early and will alert you to issues like colic as soon as possible. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but bathing your horse is a priority after they’ve been in flood waters. Bathing with a mild soap washes away bacteria and fungi, as well as removes toxins off the body. If you do not have access to clean water, you can use the sterile saline solution in your horse first aid kit to wash high priority areas, such as the legs. 

After washing off mud and debris, carefully look over your horse for any scrapes, cuts, or wounds that will require care. Remember to put Zarasyl Equine over even the smallest scrape, as this will help to prevent bacteria from entering the skin, while also allowing oxygen to permeate the wound, and help to promote the body’s own immune response. 

Pick out your horse’s hooves carefully and check for embedded foreign objects. If you do find a nail or similar in your horse’s hoof, leave it in and call your vet. Leaving it in makes it easy to see the path of the nail on radiographs, which is crucial to ensure it did not hit the coffin bone or other essential structures. If your vet is unable to make it to you, pull the object out and follow veterinary instructions, which will most likely include soaking in epsom salts and wrapping. 

Is the skin on your horse’s legs soft? This can happen when your horse is submerged in flood waters for a significant amount of time. Gently dry the legs with towels if possible. Take the standing bandages out of the dry box your horse first aid kit is in and use those to wrap the horse’s legs. This will help to reduce swelling. 

Zarasyl Equine: Here to Help

We believe that Zarasyl Equine can be a huge help to horse owners in emergency situations, particularly as part of a care protocol to mitigate the impact of flood waters. Our topical cream is non-toxic and non-irritating, making it a safe part of your horse first aid kit that you know will not negatively impact your horse, unlike harsh disinfectants, like hydrogen peroxide and betadine, which can kill healthy tissues as well as bacteria. 

Veterinarians using Zarasyl Equine have seen positive results from our amorphous silica formula on everything from skin infections to large wounds. Because we strongly believe our product can help those impacted by Hurricane Ian, we’re working with our distributors to donate Zarasyl Equine to affected areas. 

If you’re putting together your horse first aid kit, buy your tube of Zarasyl here.