Wounds and Lacerations

Manuka Honey and Wound Care

Manuka Honey and Wound Care
by Nancy Loving

With increasing emphasis by horse owners on approaching their horses’ health issues through more “holistic” and “natural” strategies, one such “natural” and relatively inexpensive treatment might include the use of honey for wound care. As a veterinarian you need to understand the physical and financial aspects of potentially using this option.

Honey application to cutaneous wounds is far from a “new” treatment; honey has been used since Egyptian times dating as far back as 2,000 B.C. as a means of managing wounds and inhibiting bacterial infection.

Yet it is important to know that not all honey is created equal. Manuka honey, derived from floral sources Leptosperum spp in New Zealand and Australia, has specific antibacterial and antioxidant properties that are absent in other honeys. Manuka honey is reported to have osmotic and pH effects; for example, it creates a more acidic pH environment that counteracts the alkaline pH of an infected wound, which is helpful for wound contraction. By lowering wound pH, protease activity is decreased and fibroblast activity and oxygen release are increased, all of which facilitate wound healing.

In addition, while bacterial-generated biofilm is known to impair healing, manuka honey has potent anti-biofilm properties: methylglyoxal, the bactericidal component of manuka honey, kills biofilm-embedded bacteria.

With the resurgence of the use of honey for wound care, licensed, medical-grade manuka honey is commercially available in therapeutic wound dressings: Medihoney  (Derma Sciences) and Active Manuka Honey UMF 18+ (Manuka Honey USA). A medical-grade product is one that has been “sterilized by gamma irradiation and has a standardized antibacterial activity.”

Use of non-sterilized honey has the potential to contaminate a wound with aerobic bacteria or fungi, therefore it should not be used.

Application of medical-grade manuka honey on a wound has the potential to reduce both the duration and expense of systemic antibiotic treatment while achieving favorable therapeutic results for the patient and client.

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August 2012 Summer Sore Alert

Recent outbreaks of ‘summer sores’ on horses have prompted us to issue this alert to let horse owners know how to recognize this alarming condition.

Summer sores, also known as Habronemiasis, are seen in the summer during fly season, and are the results of infected flies depositing the larvae of the equine stomach worm Habronema on wounds and moist areas of a horse’s body.Commonly affected areas are the eyelids, the sheath, the corners of the mouth and skin wounds.Infected tissues become inflamed and swell suddenly, with affected skin wounds producing excessive granulation tissue which protrudes above the surrounding skin.Severe itching is often seen.Infected wounds often have characteristic yellow granules which can be seen in the reddish wound surface that are about the size of a grain of rice.These are the dead larvae surrounded by inflammatory debris.

During fly season if your horse has a minor skin wound that suddenly looks much worse, or suddenly develops swelling of the eyelid, lips or sheath it may be Habronemiasis.Have your veterinarian examine your horse.

The treatment of Habronemiasis involves administering an avermectin dewormer (ivermectin or moxidectin), as well as topical treatment of the area.Systemic medications may also be given to control the severe inflammation which can result.

If caught early, summer sores are easily treated.In all cases treatment needs to be aggressive.In severe cases treatment may need to continue until fly season ends in the fall.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the stomach worm is dependent on house and stable flies.Adult stomach worms live in the lining of the stomach and lay eggs which are shed in the feces.House and stable flies then lay their eggs in the same feces and the developing fly maggots ingest the Habronema larvae which develop within the growing fly maggots.The maggots then pupate into adult flies which then deposit the Habronema larvae on the lips of horses.The horses swallow the Habronema larvae which develop into adults in the stomach, and the life cycle is complete.

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