How to do a sweat wrap (and save money).

By Patty Wilber

Every once in a while horses do some dumb thing and need medical care. Ok, for some horses, it’s more than once in a while.

Most recently, I have been caring for a horse that injured his leg and the vet said he needed to have a sweat wrap for 12 hours each day.  According the the American Association of Equine Practitioners, sweat wraps provide pressure and support, and increase heat, which dilates blood vessels. The combination reduces both swelling and inflammation in the leg.  However, the exact mechanism of action is poorly understood! They also mention that sweat wraps are not for recent injuries or open wounds.

The vet said our patient needed Fura-Zone mixed with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) as the sweating agent.

Fura-Zone is a topical antibiotic ointment with a bright yellow color that is commonly used in sweats.  I have never used anything else or been recommended to use anything else, however, I was unable to find any article explaining why Fura-Zone is favored!

DMSO is a by product of paper processing, and was discovered in Germany in the late 1800’s. It was used as an industrial solvent. It is easily absorbed through the skin and if it touches human skin, most people immediately have a garlic-ish taste in the mouth.  In the late 1970’s,  according to Healthline, “the FDA approved DMSO to help treat interstitial cystitis. It remains the only FDA-approved bladder installation (or bladder wash) for this condition. For individuals living with interstitial cystitis, DMSO has been shown to: ease pain due to the condition, help relax the bladder, and increase bladder capacity.” The FDA also approved it for topical use in horses and dogs in 1970.

Interestingly, Equus published an online article by Christine Barakat  “7 Things you may not have known about DMSO use in horses”, on 3-2-23, the very day I was writing the blog.  Here are three reasons DMSO is useful as part of a sweat poultice:

  • It is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). According to the article, it works by binding “with ‘free radicals’, which are oxygen compounds—leftovers from normal biochemical reactions—that damage or destroy healthy cells. These free radicals are often the byproduct of inflammation and, in turn, cause more swelling and inflammation as they accumulate. DMSO is a free radical scavenger that slows or halts this process.”
  • It is hygroscopic (I just had to use that word from the article, because it is cool).  DMSO helps pull fluid out of the tissue, which is often one of the goals of a sweat wrap.
  • It can provide pain relief.

When doing a sweat wrap, it is common to use disposable wrapping, but we were going to be wrapping for weeks, so it seemed financially sensible to use some re-usable materials.

Here is what I used: 

Fura-Zone with 10ml DMSO mixed in, gloves, plastic wrap, red gauze, mattress-pad leg wraps (instead of cotton batting), and the blue standing wrap (instead of vet wrap).

DMSO liquid solidifies below 70F and my house is usually between 60 and 65F, so it had to be warmed up before I could pour it and mix it with the Fura-Zone.

Here is how to wrap the wrap.  Put on the gloves.  Neither Fura-Zone nor DMSO are recommended for human skin.  Get a glob of the Fura-Zone DMSO mix,

Fura-Zone and DMSO.

Smear it on the leg. Then turn the goopy glove inside out, throw it away, and put on another one.

Wrap the plastic wrap around the leg, wrapping from the outside to the inside of the leg.  It is easiest to take the whole roll of the plastic and unwrap as you go rather than cutting off a section that will just cling to itself and is super frustrating.

Wrap the mattress-pad leg wrap around, going from the outside to the inside and hold it in place until you can start with the red gauze.

Wrap the red gauze, from the outside to the inside.  You can wrap as tight as you want.  If you get super aggressive, the gauze will tear, so you really can’t go too tight. I like the 6-inch wide gauze because it covers the leg faster than the 3-inch type.

Then, wrap the leg with the standing wrap (which I forgot to photograph for some reason) over the whole thing, from outside to inside.  It can also be pulled tight. Velcro it, and you are done.

Because our patient was so good, he earned a treat, which he ate before I could arrange the photo.

In our case we left that on for 12 hours, as per the instructions from the vet.  The standing wrap and the mattress pad wrap can be reused for a few days and then washed.  This saves a lot of money and garbage, especially since we were wrapping every day for more than two weeks!

Cancer Update: No infusions this week since I am done with chemo until sometime in April or May!  The second urinary tract infection is under control as I convinced the doc to change antibiotics from Cipro, which stopped working two days into treatment this time (and did not work for my mom, either) to Keflex. Cipro stopped working five days in last time and the docs all said I just had residual pain due to chemo and being post-menopause.  Hm.  Pretty sure, now, I just had a low level infection for like six weeks. But fingers crossed that this new drug clears the infection fully and as my immune system rebounds, I avoid repeat infections. I am also staying on urinary tract supplements from Uqora, and have cranberry pills and D-Mannose at the ready.

I had no idea DMSO is good for bladder pain, but if I end up with bladder issues independent of an infection, I don’t think I will be thawing out my DMSO and drinking it anytime soon!

Next up is surgery Mar. 23rd. I am looking forward to the next few weeks with only a few pre-surgery doctor appointments!


About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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