Suggested Vaccination Schedule
Every horse owner needs to know what is "normal" for their horse. Knowing how
your horse acts and reacts when he is feeling good will help you to faster realize
when there is something "not right" with him. Reporting all of the signs before
veterinary help arrives can often give a much clearer picture on the level of concern
and the response rate. This page is to educate you on a horse's vital signs.
Knowing the vital signs, learning what is normal and what is not, will help you take
care of them, and aid you in knowing when to call a vet.
parameters of your horse that can be essential in your assessment of his health.
Even horses with what might appear to be only a mild depression may be in critical
condition. Knowing your horses normal vital signs, and comparing those numbers
to times when one might
suspect that he is ill, can be a VERY helpful aid in
Whether he is interested in feed or grass or not will tell the owner very quickly if
the horse is ill. Horses are never "just not hungry."
Temperature: Take your horse's temperature when he is healthy so you can get
a normal reading for him. The normal temperature for the horse is 100.0 degrees.
However, a horse's temperature can
vary somewhat with the season. During the
we are not concerned with temperature that are low, but rather, trying to determine
if he is running a fever from an infection.
average fevers normally running from 101.5 up to 104. The summer heat, as well
as any exercise, can often raise the core temperature upward even without a fever.
This must be taken into account when the assessment is made.
105. Even at rest, in the summer heat under a tree, a temperature of 101 would not
be considered abnormal. So events preceding the acquisition of the temperature
must be taken into account before it is interpreted. A high fever doesn't always
indicate a severe condition, but if his temperature is over 102 F, you should call
How To Take a
string to the end of the thermometer, so that it doesn't get lost The plastic digital
thermometers work very well and are generally easier to use, and most of them
beep when they are done. Be sure that if you use an older mercury-type
thermometer, that you shake down the mercury before taking the horse's
thermometer with petroleum jelly or Vaseline. Move the horse's tail to the side and
out of the way and insert the thermometer into the horse's rectum, angled slightly
towards the ground. Stand close to the horse's hip ,do not stand directly behind
the horse, because some horses don't like this and might kick out - but most don't
mind. For the most accurate reading, leave a mercury thermometer in position for
at least 3 minutes. Many
digital thermometers work well in less than 1 minute.
especially if used on an ill horse, to prevent the spreading of an illness.
Pulse: The normal pulse rate, most often taken by listening to the heart on the left
side of the chest just behind the left elbow, is 40 beats per minute.
Horses that are fit may have rates as low as 28, and this is not considered
abnormal. However, ANY rate above 40, even 44, should be looked in the context
of how the horse is feeling. Rates between 40-60 are considered "serious," but
may be explained by an elevated temperature. However, rates above 80 are
considered "critical" and indicate a very serious problem. Of course, these rates
apply to a horse at rest, and any exercise just before taking the pulse should be
taken into consideration. Also, if the horse is suddenly excited, it may be elevated
on a very temporary basis. Listen tothe rate for at least a minute, checking to see
if it comes down, before recording the final rate.
The normal rate for horses is
between 8-12 breaths per minute.
considering whether it is
abnormal. One common factor is his temperature. Other
problems. Deep heavy breathing, or breathing with an extra
of a very serious problem. Report any observations that are anything but quiet
and easy breathing.
Mucus Membrane Color: The normal color is pink. Gums that are pale, deep red,
purple, overly yellow, or
streaked with the appearance of small broken blood
appearance are listed below:
Capillary Refill Time: After depressing the gums, the color should return within
1-2 seconds. Delayed
return of color, 3 seconds or more, is an indication of poor
Borborygmus: This refers to the sounds that the gut makes in digesting the feed.
A horse should have a
normal gurgling sound on both sides of the abdomen back
determination of what can be considered "normal", "none", "low", or "hypermotile."
condition. A hypermotile gut may be indicating an irritation, and this may be
coupled with a loose stool or diarrhea. Assessing the gut sounds from one
moment to the next may indicate whether a horse's condition is improving or
deteriorating. Take this, and all of the vital signs, frequently.
Hydration State: The best way to determine hydration is through an assessment
of the horses blood parameters. However, using the "skin turgor test" can often be
a quick field aid. The skin over the shoulder should be pinched with some elevation
of the skin. If it snaps back into place very quickly, the horse may be considered
to be adequately hydrated. Any delay should be suspect and assessed along with
the other vital signs. Older horses tend to have a more relaxed skin, so this should
be taken into account. Again, assessing this parameter when the horse can be
considered healthy will help determine if this is abnormal.
account when assessing your horse's health/problem.One parameter that may be
outside the normal boundaries may not be overly significant when all of the others
are within normal bounds.
increased pulse rate
associated with a fever. However, reporting all of the signs
of concern and the response rate.
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