It’s a Wire Cut 

D. E. Larsen, DVM

The phone rang a second time. I looked at Sandy and Dixie, but they made no move to answer it. I looked at the clock. It said five fifteen. The phone rang a third time this Friday afternoon.

“It’s a wire cut,” I said as I reached for the phone.

“How do you know that?” Sandy asked.

“It’s after five on Friday,” I said. “This is a wire cut that happened on Tuesday, and she needs it sewn up tonight, so she can go riding tomorrow.”

I picked up the phone.

“Hello, this is Doctor Larsen,” I said into the phone.

“Oh, Doctor, I am so glad I caught you,” Wendy said. “Bullet has nasty-looking wire cut on the right front leg.”

“Did this just happen?” I asked.

“No, Bob said he saw it Tuesday night,” Wendy said. “I have been busy at work and couldn’t take time off during the week. I was lucky that I could get off a little early to get here to call you.”

“Where is this cut located?” I asked.

“It’s on his right front leg, near his elbow,” Wendy said. “It looks infected, it is all puffy, and there is some yellow stuff in the wound. It is almost two inches long.”

“Being three days old and on the upper leg, it can wait until morning,” I said.

“Doctor, it is so infected. I’m afraid it is an emergency,” Wendy said. “I was hoping you could run out here this evening and take care of it. I am supposed to go riding in the morning.”

“Wendy, It was an emergency on Tuesday, and maybe even on Wednesday,” I said. “On Friday evening, at best, it is a convenience call. It is not an emergency to look at a wound that has been neglected for three days. Especially a wound that can be treated as an open wound with little difference in the outcome.”

“Doctor Larsen, I did not neglect this wound,” Wendy said. “I was just too busy to deal with it. I would appreciate it if you could look at it this afternoon.”

“I can look at it, but there will be an after-hours fee,” I said. 

“But you are still at the office. Why should I have to pay extra?” Wendy said.

“Because it is almost five thirty, and this is not an emergency,” I said. “Otherwise, I could look at the first thing in the morning.”

“Okay, I will pay the extra fee if you can come tonight,” Wendy said. “But I won’t be able to pay you tonight.”

Sandy handed me Wendy’s account card. When we charged her in the past, it was always over ninety days before she paid.

“You know our policy is payment at the time of service,” I said.

“Yes, but this is an emergency,” Wendy said.

“Wendy, this is not an emergency,” I said. “This wound can be handled as an open wound with very little difference in the healing. You can come to the office in the morning and pick up some medication, and I can give you some instructions on treating this wound.”

“My friend thought it should have sutures,” Wendy said.

“It is three days old and in a location that heals in spite of how it is handled,” I said. “If your funds are limited, I suggest treating it like an open wound. You can do that, or I can come out first thing in the morning and show you how to do it.”

“Okay, Doctor, I will be here at eight,” Wendy said. “I think I can convince my friends to a little later start for our ride tomorrow.”


Wendy was waiting with Bullet tied to a fence post when I pulled up in the morning.

“Good morning, Wendy,” I said. “Let’s look at this wire cut so you can get on your ride.”

This cut was actually above Bullet’s elbow. It was just over two inches and didn’t appear to be into the muscle tissue. There was some minor swelling, but not anything that was a problem.

“I have to be honest with you, Wendy,” I said. “If you did nothing with cut, it would heal just fine. I will clean it up, shave the hair away from the wound, and give you some ointment to keep on it. There is a little swelling, so I will give Bullet a long-acting penicillin injection. I don’t think he will need any more antibiotics. I will also booster his tetanus vaccination.”

“Your sure it will heal?” Wendy asked. “When Susie looked at it, she thought it needed sutures.”

“Tuesday night, I would have sutured it,” I said. “After two or three days, there is a good chance that the sutures would break down. Then you would have put a lot of expense in the surgery just to get back to treating it like an open wound.”

“That makes sense, I guess,” Wendy said.

I scrubbed the wound with some warm water and betadine scrub. Then with my shoulder firmly planted in Bullet’s side, I swabbed the wound firmly to remove all the accumulated exudate. Bullet never flinched.

“Now, I’m going to shave the wound edge,” I said to Wendy. “In wound treatment, if you can only do one thing, it should be to get the hair away from the wound.”

With the wound cleaned up, it didn’t look nearly as bad. Wendy looked at it closely.

“It doesn’t look bad now,” Wendy said.

“I’ll apply a little Furacin ointment,” I said. “I will leave you this small jar. You should do this once or twice daily for a week or so. By then, this will be nearly closed up, and you can relax on the treatment.”

I gave Bullet an injection of long-acting penicillin and tetanus vaccination.

“Why does he need a tetanus booster?” Wendy asked. “I give him a vaccination every year.”

“The horse is pretty susceptible to tetanus,” I said. “The protocol is an annual vaccination and then a booster with any wound. Failing to do that, I would be in jeopardy of a malpractice lawsuit, and Bullet would be less protected.”

“Have you ever seen a case of tetanus?” Wendy asked.

“Oh, yes, and most of those just die,” I said. “I have talked with a couple of veterinarians who say they have saved horses when they were given a blank check on treatment expenses. I have never seen that happen, but I am sure it does.”

“Can I ride him today?” Wendy asked.

“I don’t think he will notice this cut,” I said. “You noticed that he didn’t object to my treatment. Riding him will probably make his muscle feel better.”

“And I can give you a check this morning,” Wendy said. “However, it would be better if you could wait till the end of the month before depositing it.”

“That will make Sandy feel better,” I said. “I will make sure she gives you a call before she deposits it. And if you are concerned about how this wound is coming along, you give me a call.”


Bullet’s wound healed nicely. In fact, Wendy was surprised that there was almost no scar when it was healed. And Sandy deposited her check on the first of the month, and it went through with no problems.

Photo by Jacque B on Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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