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How To Treat Horse And Donkey Bite Wounds

Earlier this week this tweet from @prsjournal caught my eye

Most Popular: Management of Horse and Donkey Bite Wounds: A Series of 24 Cases: No abstract available

I missed this article when it came out in the June 2010 issue of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal.  As I have covered fire ant bites, cat bites, and snake bites.  Fellow blogger Bongi has written about hippo bites.  It’s time to cover horse and donkey bites.

Dr. Köse, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Harran University Hospital, Turkey and colleagues presented a retrospective evaluation of 24 patients treated for animal bites (19 horse and five donkey bites) from 2003 to 2009.  The head and neck were the most frequent bite sites (14 cases), followed by the extremities (8 cases) and the trunk (2 cases).

The article is very short, representing their personal viewpoint and experience.

Our experience shows the safety of primary closure for horse and donkey bite wounds, provided that careful debridement and good cleansing with antibiotic prophylaxis are also performed. An acceptable aesthetic outcome can be achieved only with early primary repair and reconstructive procedures.

Dr. Köse notes that horse and donkey bites often result in tissue loss wounds.  Their review of the literature (not sure how extensive) found one reported case of anaphylaxis after a horse bite and one case of a deep crush injury with hematoma, fat necrosis, and muscle rupture without an external wound in a woman bitten on her thigh by a horse.

As I shared in my post Assessing and Managing Mammal Bites – an Article Review

  • Thoroughly examine patients with bites.  Especially with children, check the entire body to identify additional injuries.
  • Examine the wound itself meticulously. It’s easy to miss things.
  • Be alert for injuries to the vasculature, nerves, tendons, bones, and joints.
  • Bites from large mammals can damage and even fracture bone.  Plain radiographs should be viewed after the exam.
  • Large mammals who bite and shake can dislocate joints. Have patients perform active range-of-motion with joints that are near bite wounds.
  • Use plain radiography to assess for retained foreign bodies and skeletal injuries. Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging have increased sensitivity for foreign bodies and subtle fractures.

As with all wounds, standard wound care applies.  This means copiously irrigate and debride as needed.  Bites are tetanus-prone wounds. Review the patient’s immunization records.  Give updates, etc as needed.


Management of Horse and Donkey Bite Wounds: A Series of 24 Cases; Köse, Rüstü; Sögüt, Özgür; Mordeniz, Cengiz; Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 125(6):251e-252e, June 2010; doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181d515dd

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

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One Response to “How To Treat Horse And Donkey Bite Wounds”

  1. Hepcat says:

    Thank you for this informative article. I was recently bitten by a horse and am just now getting around to reading this article. I’ll have my cousin Billy-Bob sew this up tomorrow. Thanks.

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