How to Treat a Horse's Proud Flesh

Successful proud flesh treatment results in normal-looking legs.
Successful proud flesh treatment results in normal-looking legs. (Image: kodacole/iStock/Getty Images)

Treating a horse with proud flesh is basically an issue of proper wound management. Proud flesh can develop quickly and can appear extremely unsightly -- it can end up looking like your horse has a giant tumor on the wound site. Immediate suturing of the wound by a veterinarian is the the best way to prevent proud flesh development, but you might not discover the wound until the time frame for suturing has passed.

Proud Flesh in Horses

Formally known as exuberant granulation tissue, proud flesh occurs primarily on a horse's lower legs after an injury. That's because this area of the body has sparse soft tissue, and the skin is quite tight over tendons and bones. Suturing a fresh wound can prevent proud flesh from forming, but wounds on the lower legs are located in a tough place to sew up. Because of the constant movement of the legs and tension on the wound, the normal process of healing with granulation tissue is disturbed. That causes excessive granulation tissue to form.

Wound Management

If it's too late for suturing, your vet can advise you on best practices for managing your horse's particular wound. That might involve stall rest, bandaging to keep the wound clean and free of contaminants, and the use of topical steroid or silicone ointments for wound healing. Depending on the nature of the wound, your vet might take an X-ray to ensure that no foreign bodies are within it.

You must check and treat the wound daily as directed by your vet. If mild proud flesh develops, your vet will show you how to debride the granulation tissue. Proud flesh should be cut back until the wound surface is level with the skin surface. The object is to remove the proud flesh until the wound's surface matches the skin's surface. Since the granulation has no nerve endings, gentle debriding doesn't hurt your horse.

Be Cautious With Commercial Products

You'll find many products in tack stores for the treatment of proud flesh -- but don't use any of them without consulting your vet. Many of these products contain caustic agents that can damage tissue and potentially cause serious scarring. A primary reason to treat proud flesh is to ensure that your horse doesn't end up with disfiguring granulation on the wound. With many over-the-counter treatment products for proud flesh, you're simply trading ugly scarring for ugly granulation.

Surgical Removal

If the proud flesh proliferates to a severe degree, your horse may require surgery to have the excess tissue removed. That involves a trip to the veterinary hospital and requires general anesthesia and possibly a skin graft. A horse can take several months to recover from surgical proud flesh removal: The larger the wound the longer the recovery time.

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