top of page
Epitheal Logo - text reads 'Epitheal' in white on a blue background

Proud Flesh: A Familiar Challenge in Equine Wound Care

A good understanding of equine wound care is an essential part of maintaining horse health. Unfortunately, wounds on distal limbs, especially below the knee or hock, are challenging to manage, often leading to the production of proud flesh, also known as exuberant granulation tissue. Early recognition and appropriate treatment are crucial for complete wound healing.

Here we’ll explain the wound healing process, appropriate treatment to avoid proud flesh, and what to expect when managing proud flesh with your veterinarian.

Wound Healing Process

The normal wound healing process includes four stages: hemostasis (clotting), inflammatory (localized swelling), proliferative (rebuilding), and maturation (remodeling). They normally proceed in an organized and linear fashion; however, contamination, infection, inflammation, and motion can halt the progression of healing and lead to chronic wounds.

Proud Flesh: The Challenge

Proud flesh develops when the normal proliferative phase of the wound healing process proceeds unrestricted. Typically, granulation tissue is pink and appears rough or bumpy. This tissue is highly vascularized, which means it contains many blood vessels that help supply oxygen to the area. However, it does not contain nerve endings. Horses are more prone to proud flesh than other species, especially when it comes to wounds on the distal limbs. This predisposition occurs due to the high tissue tension and mobility in these areas. Bandaging and rest are vital to wound healing, as continuous wound movement and contamination cause persistent inflammation, which complicates healing.

Preventing Proud Flesh

Persistent inflammation, along with infection, is a major contributor to proud flesh formation in a wound. Your veterinarian should examine any wound closely and remove foreign material, bone fragments, or dead tissue that can cause inflammation and infection. He or she should also lavage (flush) it immediately, preferably with a balanced saline solution. Once the wound is clean, your vet can apply an appropriate dressing and bandage, the type of which varies on a case-by-case basis.

Consult your veterinarian about any wounds that appear deep or extensive, that lie over important structures like joints and tendons, or that already show signs of proud flesh development. Some cases might require debridement (trimming) of dead tissue or wound closure.

Managing Proud Flesh

Work with your veterinarian to manage proud flesh efficiently and effectively. The first step is determining whether the wound had any lingering infectious or inflammatory constituents. In some cases, he or she might need to investigate further through diagnostic imaging.

After addressing possible infection, your veterinarian might suggest treating the proud flesh with topical steroids, surgical debridement, or both, depending on the severity. The goal of topical steroid treatment is to reduce the inflammatory response and, thus, prevent overproduction of granulation tissue.

Surgical debridement is necessary when the proud flesh becomes taller than the normal epithelium surrounding it. Epithelial cells cannot climb over the mountainous granulation tissue; therefore, when this happens, wound contracture halts. Trimming the granulation tissue down to a healthy wound bed so it’s flush with the surrounding epithelium (followed by bandaging of the area) will encourage appropriate wound healing. Due to the extensive vascular supply and lack of nerve supply, trimming of this tissue will be bloody yet pain-free for the horse.

Proud flesh can be a challenging condition to manage in horses, but with early recognition and appropriate treatment, complete wound healing can be a real possibility. If you have any concerns about your horse's wound healing or suspect proud flesh development, seek veterinary attention immediately.

18 views0 comments


bottom of page