Intralesional application of medical grade honey improves healing of surgically treated lacerations in horses

Equine Vet J. 2020 Jan;52(1):41-45. doi: 10.1111/evj.13111. Epub 2019 Apr 15.


Background: Infection and dehiscence of simple lacerations is common in horses, and consistently effective methods of prevention are yet to be found. Honey has been shown to promote wound healing when applied topically; however, intralesional application prior to wound closure has not been reported.

Objectives: To examine whether intralesional application of medical grade honey (MGH) would reduce the incidence of infection and dehiscence following wound closure.

Study design: Prospective, open-label randomised block design clinical study.

Methods: Lacerations, treated by field practitioners, were divided into treatment and control groups using block randomisation. Horses in the treatment group received a single intralesional treatment with l-mesitran gel (MGH). Data were collected at the time of wound closure and at suture removal.

Results: Data from 127 horses were included, 69 MGH-treated and 58 control cases. No adverse effects of the MGH were recorded. MGH-treated horses were more likely to completely heal (P = 0.006, odds ratio [OR] 3.40 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.41-8.20), to have no signs of infection (P = 0.007, OR 3.64, CI 1.42-9.26) and for the veterinarians to report some degree of satisfaction (P = 0.04, OR 2.72, CI 1.05-7.09) compared to control cases. Numbers needed to treat for complete healing was 5.1 (CI 2.8-40).

Main limitations: Clinical studies have inherent flaws compared to wound healing models, because of variability between wounds. There were more horses with limb injuries in the control group, although not statistically significant, this may have biased the results. Clinical satisfaction and signs of infection were subjective evaluations and evaluators were not blinded to the treatment group.

Conclusions: Intralesional application of MGH to lacerations prior to wound closure may be beneficial in preventing infection and dehiscence. Larger, blinded studies focusing on wounds at a specific location with more objective assessment should be pursued.

Keywords: honey; horse; intralesional; laceration; primary repair.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control
  • Bacterial Infections / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Honey*
  • Horse Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Horses
  • Lacerations / veterinary*
  • Male
  • Wound Healing*