Cover Image
close this book Animal traction
close this folder 3. Animal husbandry
View the document Sheller
View the document Nutrition
View the document Grooming
View the document Minor medical problems and first aid

Minor medical problems and first aid

Farmers and extension agents should be able to handle minor medical problems and common first aid measures. This section reviews the diagnosis and treatment of common problems. For information on diagnosis and treatment of other illnesses, see Appendix C.


This is a pus-filled swelling caused by the presence of foreign material under the skin. The material may be a thorn or broken needle, dirt introduced by a puncture, or blood from a ruptured vessel (result of a blow or bruise). The swelling will come to a head, break, and drain naturally. If the animal is in pain, the process should be hastened by applying hot soaks (one or two per day). The abscess is then cut open with a sterile, sharp knife and flushed out with a solution of salt water or mild antiseptic. Massage improves the drainage. Sulfa powder can be applied inside the abscess. The cleaned cavity is then plugged with sterile gauze or antiseptic cloth. The area must be drained dally until the discharge ceases.


Bloat is a condition that affects ruminants. The intake of lush, early-growth pasture, immature grain, or any feed to which the animal is unaccustomed causes unusual amounts of foam to build up in the stomach. This prevents normal belching. A gas forms, the animal's left side distends. Breathing becomes difficult and death may be the result. Serious cases are treated by piercing the animal's side with a special device; this should be performed only by a veterinarian or trained veterinary medic. Bloat often can be alleviated through administration of a drench. A pint of vegetable oil (or peanut oil) is put in a bottle and the animal is made to drink (see below). It is preferable to have a veterinarian do this, but in emergency situations, the farmer or extension agent can do it by following these steps:

1) Raise the animal's head just enough to allow liquid to flow down its throat. Hold the animal by the nostrils.

2) Insert the bottle into the side of the mouth between the front teeth and the rear molars so the animal cannot bite or break it. The mouth of the bottle should rest on the animal's tongue.

3) Tilt the bottle so the liquid flows slowly and the animal can swallow it. If the animal coughs, or appears not to be swallowing, the liquid may be passing into the windpipe (and lungs) instead of the gullet. This can cause pneumonia and kill the animal.


Colic is pain of the digestive tract. Colic affects equine animals which have eaten too much grain, indigestible roughage, or lush forage. Animals with poor teeth are especially prone to the condition because they cannot break down foods in the mouth before swallowing them. Ground-fed animals may ingest sand with their food and suffer from sand colic. A chronic form of colic is due to the migration of strongyles (worms) in the digestive tract. In all cases, the animal suffers pain from the gas which builds up in the stomach. The pain may become so intense that the animal injures itself by kicking or rolling.

Symptoms include pawing, kicking up at the stomach, rolling (this causes leg and spine injuries), biting the flank, sweating, constipation, increased heartbeat, and shock. Keep the horse warm and quiet and administer drench.


Constipation should be treated by administering a mineral oil drench (1-4 quarts, depending on the size of the animal). A veterinarian may administer liquid parafin or magnesium sulfate through a tube inserted into the stomach via the nostrils; this should not be attempted by inexperienced persons, since it might pass into the lungs. In emergency situations, an agent or farmer should give a drench made of 1-1/2 pints warm beer, 1/2 glass whiskey or rum and 1-1/2 pints water, or 1-l/2 pints warm milk and 2 tablespoons ginger.


Diarrhea may develop from the excessive consumption of lush green pasture. It can cause dehydration of an animal. Regulation of the intake of lush pasture will prevent this problem.


This condition affects equine animals, particularly horses; it causes lameness and eventually cripples the animal. It is due to poor circulation in the hoof (too much blood) caused by an overly rich diet, concussion of the hoof, overwork, or colds. The animal stands on its heels; its feet are hot (the hoof and the flesh directly above it feel warm to the touch); it limps or may refuse to move. Eventually, rings develop around the hoof wall and the toe portion of the hoof begins to grow outward, curling back on itself.

An animal with founder must be made to walk even though it refuses at first. The activity forces the hoof to perform its natural function, which is to pump blood up out of the foot. Cold soaks are used to relieve swelling and pain. This is done easily by having the animal stand in mud, a stream, or a filled irrigation ditch; otherwise, it is kept standing in buckets of cold water.

Hoof Problems (Equines)

STONE IN HOOF: Carefully remove the stone by prying it out with a hoofpick, screwdriver, or non-pointed instrument.

THORN IN HOOF: Tap the suspected area with a wrench or bolt until the animal flinches. Trim surface area if possible and pull the thorn out. Soak the hoof in warm salty water to draw out infection. Then apply a poultice composed of a hot paste of bran and epsom salts that have been pre-mixed in boiling water and partially cooled. Pack this around the hoof and wrap it in burlap. After 10-12 hours, remove the poultice, flush the wound with antiseptic, and then pack it with pine tar. If swelling and heat indicate that the infection is still present, repeat the procedure.

SANDCRACK: This is one of several conditions caused by drying out of the hoof and improper diet, including insufficient oil intake. Cracks appear during the dry season when the animal lacks the green forage necessary for production of horn, which forms the hard outer wall of the hoof. The crack descends from the coronary band down into the hoof wall. It is painful and causes lameness; sometimes infection results. Cracks are sometimes the result of a direct blow, such as a kick by another animal. Sometimes cracks are related to a conformation fault, as when an animal's natural gait causes it to hit one foot with the other. The blow damages the horn-producing mechanism in the coronary band.

Treatment consists of inserting a wooden wedge into the crack and wrapping it with a bandage so the crack cannot open and close when the animal walks. Workload should be decreased and diet corrected by feeding concentrates to provide additional oil.


Animals are usually bitten on the leg or head. Symptoms include intense local swelling, lameness, swelling of the head, lips and gums, shock, lowered body temperature, and impaired vision. Treatment is as follows:

1) Apply wide tourniquet five cm above the bite, not so tight that it cuts circulation. Loosen it every 15-20 minutes for a two-hour period following detection of the bite.

2) Clip the hair around the bite. Enlarge the wounds (fang marks) by making incisions parallel to the blood vessels. Apply a nonoral suction to the wound for a period of 30 minutes.

3) A large bull should be injected with 50 milliliters (ml) of polyvalent antivenin; smaller animals receive larger dosages.


A sprain results from damage to a muscle, tendon, ligament, or joint. The tissue is stretched or torn when the animal steps in a hole, twists its foot, or pulls too great a load. Swelling and temperature increase may occur in the affected area, but some sprains are hard to detect, being related to chronic conformation faults in the legs. In these instances soreness begins after several hours of work and disappears with a night's rest. Application of cold packs relieves the swelling and pain. The affected limb is wrapped in loose cotton or cloth and then wound with a strip bandage. Rest is the best treatment for lameness.


When the animal is lame in the front legs, its head will go up when the lame foot hits the ground. Lead the animal toward the observer, first at a walk, then at a trot. Lameness is more easily seen when the animal trots.

When the animal is lame in the hind legs, its head will drop when the lame foot hits the ground. Lead the animal away from the observer, first at a walk, then at a trot.

These are the most common kinds of lameness. Other lameness is related to the abnormal growth of bone or the accumulation of fluids in the joint. A veterinarian should be consulted when these more serious problems are suspected.

Wounds and Burns

Minor flesh wounds are washed with soap and sterile (boiled) water, or with hydrogen peroxide or a one percent solution of potassium permanganate. Alcohol, iodine, and creosote are stronger antiseptics that can damage tissues and delay healing if applied too liberally. After the wound is clean, dust it with antibiotic powder and cover it.

An untreated or improperly cleaned wound may become infected. Soreness, inflammation, and pus are common symptoms of infection.

Rope or harness burns should be washed with soap and water and covered with petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment. The application of wood ash will cause a scar to form quickly and will also help keep flies off the wound. The harness and pads should be cleaned and adjusted.