The Best Horse Wound Care Does Not Necessarily Need Iodine.
Is povidone-iodine (Betadine/Vetadine) the right stuff for horses wounds?
At our First Response workshop recently I covered the topic of what to use to clean and heal wounds on your horse. I also talked about the products that shouldn’t be used on wounds. At every workshop, almost everyone is surprised to hear that povidone-iodine (Betadine, Vetadine etc) should not be used on wounds as a first line cleaning solution.
Horse owners love the stuff and unfortunately so do a lot of Vets. In fact, many people will quite passionately argue their love of the stuff with ‘well the wound healed’. The problem is we have such little knowledge about how quickly a wound should heal on a horse that if it heals at all we believe that the products did that. Actually many times they heal in spite of all the things we put on the wound just because horses are generally healthy animals.
When should I Use Iodine on My Horse?
There are times when iodine is a good product to use. I use a weak iodine solution on skin fungal infections or penetrating hoof injuries.
Why Should’nt I Use Iodine on my Horses Wound?
The reason I don’t use povidone-iodine on wounds is that it is toxic to the healing cells. This means it will actually slow the healing process by drying out the wound bed and damaging the cells in the granulating tissue and cells that are rebuilding.
It’s antiseptic and we don’t need an antiseptic for a wound that is not infected. Iodine is used to kill all the bacteria on the skin which is great when you want a sterile area to operate or suture. That’s not what we want when we’re healing a wound. It’s not just my opinion either……….there is plenty of evidence out there to support this view. We stopped using povidone iodine on wounds many years ago in the human wound care space.
There are much better products that can be used for wound care than one that will damage it. The only time I will use it on wounds is if the wound is heavily infected and I don’t have other options. In this instance, povidone-iodine soaked gauze can be applied to the wound and left in place for 15-30 minutes. Then remove it and clean with saline.
Another thing people often don’t know either is that the active product in povidone iodine products starts to diminish and denature after the bottle is opened. It’s recommended that you discard 4 weeks after opening.
As I’m fond of saying it’s important to match the product you are using to the stage of healing.