Veterinary emergency management of equine burn victims
As a first responder to a barn fire, would you know how to treat a burn-compromised horse?
Apr 01, 2013
More than 1,000 structure fires strike barns and stables annually (data reported from 2002 to 2005), leaving their equine inhabitants vulnerable to smoke inhalation, severe burns and even death.1 See Table 1 for common causes of barn and stable fires.2
Potential for injury
"More life-threatening to the burn-compromised horse, besides skin thermal injury, is probably the damage to the airway and the lungs, especially the smoke inhalation insult, which can include carbon monoxide and other toxins," says Sweeney. "Thermal injury can also damage the lining of the respiratory tract from the tip of the nose all the way down to the alveoli. You can also get thermal damage to the upper airway and burn damage to the inside of the nasal passages and the throat.
According to Emma Adam, BVetMed, DACVIM, DACVS, of Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky, the thermal insult also causes microvascular damage and direct tissue coagulation, which can lead to systemic shock.3
"Systemic shock can lead to triggering of the inflammatory and coagulation cascades and decreased cardiac output," says Adam. "Microvascular damage—both direct and inflammatory cytokines—leads to an increased capillary pressure, with leaky capillaries followed by the formation of edema. As shock progresses, tissue perfusion is further compromised, vascular permeability increases and protein leaks into interstitial spaces, furthering circulatory collapse and edema formation."3