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We have put together a list of the frequently asked questions regarding horse health and wellness. Please reach out if you have any other questions.
Horse Health FAQs
Normal Adult horse vital signs
Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration. We encourage owners to recognize normal horse vital signs and recommend that you know how to properly check them.
For the adult horse, normal temperature is classically 100.5 degrees F, although this varies due to ambient temperature. Pulse is 36-40 beats per minute. Normal respiration is 12-16 breaths per minutes. Capillary refill time should take less than two seconds with mucous membranes taking a pale pink appearance. Gut sounds are always present.
Normal Foal Vital Signs
Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration. For the foal, normal temperature increases over the first four days after birth, then plateaus at 100-102 F. Pulse is 60-110 beats per minute. Normal respiration is 25-60 breaths per minute. Capillary refill time should take less than two seconds with mucous membranes taking a pale pink appearance
Please ask us to demonstrate how to check vital signs on our next visit!
You have waited through 11 months of pregnancy and now anticipate the BIG EVENT. Most labor and delivery, while exciting, are generally uneventful. Mares seem to prefer to foal at night. It is best to allow the mare to foal undisturbed and unassisted. To prepare your mare for a safe and successful foaling, we recommend the following:
- Write down your veterinarian's phone number well in advance and keep it by all phones.
- Wrap the mare's tail in a clean wrap when you observe the first sign of labor.
- Keep a watch or clock on hand so you can time each stage of labor.
- Wash the mare's vulva and hindquarters with mild soap and rinse thoroughly.
- Clean and disinfect the stall area as thoroughly as possible and provide adequate bedding.
- Consider using test strips that measure calcium in mammary secretions to predict when the mare will foal.
- If you mare is taking longer than 20 minutes to deliver the foal, call your veterinarian immediately.
Equine First Aid Kit
Don't leave home without it! In the event of an emergency, it is important for you to be prepared to care for your horses until the veterinarian arrives. Every horse owner should have at least one equine first aid kit available in the tack room at all times; for owners who compete or trailer their horses frequently, we suggest keeping a kit in your trailer as well. We recommend the following contents for each first aid kit:
- Digital rectal thermometer with extra battery
- Banamine and Bute paste
- Antibiotic wound ointment
- Large gauze squares
- Self-sticking first aid bandage, such as Vetrap
- Sheet cotton
- Hoof pick
- Antiseptic scrub such as Betadine or Nolvasan, available in sterile sponges
- Saline solution or hydrogen peroxide in a squirt bottle for cleaning fresh wounds
- Surgical scissors (blunt-tipped safety type)
- Rolls of gauze bandage
- Stable quilt and bandage
- Premoistened alcohol wipes
- Small flashlight
- Instant cold packs
- Latex gloves
- Dose syringe
- Duct tape
- Veterinarian's phone number
Colic in Horses
Colic is a dangerous combination of signs that indicate abdominal pain in the horse. Colic in horses can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored. Many conditions cause colic can become life-threatening in a relatively short period of time.
Recognizing colic can be difficult. The signs vary between individuals and also depend on the severity of pain. Among the most common signs are:
When you suspect colic, take immediate action.
Time is perhaps the most critical aspect of successful colic treatment. If you suspect your horse is suffering from colic, the following action plan is suggested:
- Turning the head toward the flank
- Kicking or biting at the abdomen
- Stretching out as if to urinate without doing so
- Repeatedly lying down and getting up or attempting to do so
- Rolling, especially violent rolling
- Sitting in a dog-like position, or lying on the back
- Lack of appetite
- Putting head down to water without drinking
- Lack of bowel movements
- Absence of, or reduced, digestive sounds
- Rapid respiration and/or flared nostrils
- Elevated pulse rate (greater than 52 beats per minute)
- Lip curling
- Cool extremities
- Remove all food and water.
- Notify your veterinarian immediately.
- Be prepared to provide the following information:
- Pulse rate
- Respiratory rate
- Color of mucus membranes
- Capillary refill time (tested by pressing on gums adjacent to teeth, releasing, then counting the seconds it takes for the color to return)
- Behavioral signs, such as pawing, kicking, rolling, depression, etc.
- Digestive noises or lack thereof
- Bowel movements, including color, consistency, and frequency
- Any recent changes in management, feeding, or exercise
- Medical history, including deworming and any past episodes of abdominal pain
- Breeding history and pregnancy status if the patient is a mare, and recent breeding history if the patient is a stallion
- Insurance status of the horse (Note: The insurance carrier should be notified if surgery or euthanasia is considered.)
- Keep horse as calm and comfortable as possible. Allow the animal to lie down if it appears to be more comfortable and is not at risk of injury.
- If the horse is rolling or behaving violently, attempt to walk the horse slowly.
- Do not administer drugs unless specifically directed to do so by your veterinarian. Drugs may mask problems and interfere with diagnosis.
- Follow your veterinarian's advice exactly and await his or her arrival.
Your veterinarian will establish the severity of the colic and identify its cause. His or her examination and treatment may include the following procedures:
- Observation of such signs as sweating, abdominal distension (bloating), rapid breathing rate, flared nostril, and abnormal behavior
- Obtaining an accurate history
- Passage of a stomach tube to determine presence of excess gas, fluids, and ingesta
- Monitoring vital signs, including temperature, pulse, respiration, color of the mucous membranes, and capillary refill time
- Rectal palpation for evidence of intestinal blockage, distension, or other abnormalities
- Abdominal tap in order to evaluate protein level and cell type in the peritoneal fluid
- Oral laxatives (administered with tube) to help reestablish normal intestinal function
- IV therapy with anti-spasmodic medication, anti-inflammatory medication, and medication to prevent endotoxemia
- Continued observation to determine response to treatment