Preventing an accident is always better
and cheaper than treatment. However, we all will run into a problem
over the course of our trail riding adventures. In cases where
prevention has failed, preparation is the next best defense. Be
prepared for problems on the trail and in the camp so you know what
to do until the vet arrives.|
Enlist the help of your veterinarian
before you get in an emergency situation. Learn as much as you can
about wounds and first aid at the vet clinic. Ask your vet if you
could just hang around some day and observe how trauma situations
are dealt with and have your vet make recommendations on how to
handle similar situations on the trail. It’s much easier to learn in
a clinic setting when you are thinking clearly and it isn’t your
animal. You can then calmly apply the skills you learned later in an
emergency situation on the trail.
Make sure your mule is current on all inoculations before you
leave on a trip. You might learn how to make sutures, wrap legs and
administer some medications such as Banamine™. Have your vet help
you put together a first aid kit to take along with you.
Wire cuts, puncture wounds and fractures are the most common
injuries sustained on the trail, so the first aid kit should include
materials designed to deal with these injuries. Although fractures
are generally very difficult to handle, cuts and puncture wounds are
certainly within the realm of treatment on the trail. More serious
injuries should be treated until the mule can be taken to a vet or a
vet can be brought to the scene of the accident. Consult with your
veterinarian on veterinary drugs that you might want to take with
you on long outings.
Ready-made kits are available, but will not afford the
personalized touch you can add when making your own. Making a kit
from scratch and with the help of your veterinarian will insure you
have what you require in light of your own experiences and needs.
The following items might be included in your first aid kit,
depending on how elaborate you want to get and how long you will be
away from veterinary care.
Antiseptic Spray or Cream
Canteen of Clean Water
Clean Rags or Gauze Sponges
Good Pocket Knife
Mild Detergent Soap
Non-stick Gauze Pads
Snake Bite Kit
Syringes and Needles
NOTE: If you have a medical condition such as allergies, asthma,
diabetes, etc. that could affect you during a ride – especially bee
stings – be sure at least one other person on the ride knows ahead
of time. Let them know about medication or treatment, and show them
where your medication is. Likewise, keep a copy of your medical care
card or insurance in your wallet, and with you on the ride, should
something happen. We all hope all shows and events go smoothly, but
make sure you have medical information up to date and on hand for
The principles of first aid for your mule are the same
as for humans. Remain calm and try to keep the mule calm. Assess the
situation and make sure that treatment can be started without
causing further injury. Prioritize the injuries. A rule of thumb is
to prioritize in this order: fracture, puncture, cut.
If there is a penetration, is the penetrating object still in the
wound and can it be removed without causing further damage? It is
best to wait for the veterinarian to remove the object if you can
and you are within a reasonable distance to veterinary intervention.
If the penetration is in the chest or abdomen area, the injury may
be very serious.
If there are skin flaps, these should be cleaned and bandaged as
soon as possible to keep the flap as viable as possible so that it
could be sutured to obtain the best cosmetic results.
Blood loss can be very upsetting and frightening. What looks like
a gallon of blood to you may, in fact, be only a quart. Usually, an
adult mule can lose up to two gallons of blood before the situation
is considered a crisis. Most bleeding will stop on its own before
the animal succumbs to shock from loss of blood. Exceptions to this,
of course, are cuts to the jugular vein in the neck or high inside
the hind leg.
In determining how to treat a wound, first assess where the wound
is and how bad it is.
For superficial wounds, abrasions and lacerations, first, clean
the outside of the wound taking care not to probe inside which could
carry debris farther into the wound and further contaminate it.
Flush the wound with clean water. Clean the wound with soap,
beginning at the top and working down. Allow area to dry and apply
antibiotic ointment and a sterile gauze or Telfa™ pad and secure in
place in an area that can be bandaged.
However, avoid using any medication or ointment on the wound if
you think that sutures might be needed. Topicals may prevent sutures
from holding. Ideally, suturing should be done within the first six
hours after the injury.
Do not attempt to treat major wounds. Only intervene enough to
stabilize the patient until you can get veterinary help.
If the wound involves exposed bone, it is extremely serious and
veterinarian attention must be obtained within four hours to
maximize the chances of preventing infection of the bone. Try not to
move the mule until evaluated by a veterinarian.
Your job will be to stabilize the situation. Try to keep a simple
fracture form turning into a compound fracture. Try to stabilize the
leg as much as possible. This will prevent further damage and
relieve the mule’s pain. Keep in mind the practicality of
successfully splinting a fracture is slim. It’s worth a try, but
don’t be surprised if you lose the battle.
Contusions are blunt traumas which do not break the skin but
damage the deep tissues or the bone. The injured area will show
swelling, heat and tenderness. Application of cold compresses or
streams of cold water should be applied at least three times a day.
The real key to how successful your first aid
attempts will be is how good you are in assessing the situation.