Horse set on fire in August is healing well at Ohio State

Horse set on fire in August is healing well at Ohio State

Preliminary assessments look good for first skin grafts.
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Oct 25, 2012

Northstar, a 6-year-old American paint horse that was badly burned in August in Crawford County, Pa., is healing well, says Dr. Samuel Hurcombe, DVM, BSc, BVMS, MS, DACVIM, ACVECC, assistant professor of equine emergency and critical care at the Galbreath Equine Center at The Ohio State University. It is believed that the horse was deliberately doused in an unknown accelerant and set on fire, sustaining first-, second- and third-degree burns to approximately 40 percent of his body.

Shortly after Northstar arrived at OSU, Hurcombe said Northstar’s burns would take at least a month of healing before infection was under control and graft surgery could even be considered. Despite the severity of the horse’s injuries, Hurcombe was cautiously optimistic about how Northstar was progressing. “Northstar is bright and interactive with people and his pain is manageable, but he has a long way to go to recovery,” he says.

Hurcombe reports that last week the horse began the long process of skin grafts and cell-based therapy. “True to form, Northstar did really well for both procedures,” Hurcombe said in an e-mail to DVM Newsmagazine. “We harvested skin from his chest in small 8-mm-diameter grafts and embedded them into two areas on his left and right neck.”

He says time will tell on how well the grafts take, but preliminary assessments look good. Pain management will be a priority as Northstar experiences increased sensitivity over the healing tissues as the nerves regenerate. “This week, Northstar will have a quiet and restful time where routine bandage changes and cleaning will be the focus as well as lots of treats, cuddles and attention,” Hurcombe says.

Northstar is getting so much attention and love from those caring for him that Hurcombe is cutting back on the treats--the horse is putting on a little too much weight. The staff at Galbreath Equine Center is encouraged that the horse’s attitude seems to be improving as they continue his long healing process.

“The next round of skin grafts will likely occur next week and continue every other week or so until we have reached our limits of available donor tissue or we are happy that he has adequate coverage,” Hurcombe says.