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How to heal a horse’s split or cracked lips

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The debate about what to do if blood is seen around a horse’s mouth during international competition is set to rumble on into 2012. But what can we do if an oral wound does occur?

Split and cracked lips are a common problem, particularly in hard-pulling competition horses.

Using correctly fitting tack will help prevent injury in the first place, but if splits do appear, ensure they heal as quickly as possible by:

  • Using a bitless bridle: a period of several weeks without a bit may be necessary for the healing process to complete, but using a bitless bridle will allow the horse to continue to be exercised.
  • Applying healing lotions: lotions and potions used for the treatment of human mouth ulcers, such as antibiotic and corticosteroid ointments, as well as over-the-counter products such as tincture of myrrh or chorhexidine gel can help healing and improve the strength of the horse’s lips. Care must be taken to ensure that any creams used do not contain prohibited substances. Ask your vet for advice on this.
  • Switching bits: a bit with a slightly different action may help relieve the pressure on any mouth cracks.
  • Using petroleum jelly: when applied to the corners of the horse’s mouth, products like Vaseline can help reduce friction.

    To read the full veterinary article on treating mouth wounds see the current issue of H&H (12 January 2012)

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