The histological aspects of second-intention healing were studied in 5 horses and 5 ponies. Biopsies were taken weekly from standardised wounds on the metatarsus and femoral biceps muscle of one horse and one pony. Sections were stained to enable cell counting and the detection of DNA synthesis, fibrin, smooth muscle actin (SMA), collagen, and bacteria.
In the ponies, the number of polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNs) was high during the first 3 weeks and subsequently decreased rapidly. In the horses, the initial number of PMNs was lower, but remained persistently elevated during the evaluation period. PMNs were found mainly in the superficial zones. Significantly more fibrin was present in the wounds of the horses. No significant differences were observed in the number of fibroblasts, the amounts of SMA and collagen. However, myofibroblasts were significantly less regularly organised in the wounds of the horses, particularly in the metatarsal wounds. The mitotic activity of the epithelium was temporally reduced in week 3. The mitotic activity of the granulation tissue was initially high but declined rapidly from week 1 onwards, with the exception of the metatarsal wounds of the horses, in which mitotic activity remained significantly higher.
Histology confirmed and explained the macroscopical differences in wound healing between horses and ponies by the strict organisation of the myofibroblasts and the more effective acute inflammation in the ponies. Stimulation of the organisation of myofibroblasts and improvement of the efficacy of the inflammatory response in horses may therefore result in better second-intention wound healing in horses in clinical practice.