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 know when there is something not quite right with him. Reporting all the signs before the vet arrives can often give a much clearer picture on the level of concern. Knowing your horse’s normal vital signs and comparing those numbers to times when you may suspect that he’s not well, can be a very helpful aid in determining how quickly he needs veterinarian help.
Temperature: Take your horse’s temperature when he is healthy so you can get a normal reading for him. The normal temperature for horses is 100.0 degrees. However, that can vary somewhat with the season.
Respiration: The normal rate is between 1 – 12 breaths per minute. However, many things can effect this and must be taken into consideration before determining if he’s abnormal. One factor is his temperature. Deep heavy breathing or breathing with abdominal effort, abnormal noise, laboured breathing or gasping are all indications of a serious problem. Report any observations that are anything but quiet and easy breathing.
Mucus Membrane Colour: It’s pink! Gums that are pale, deep red, purple, overly yellow or have an appearance of small broken blood vessels are abnormal.
Capillary Refill Time: After depressing the gums the colour should return within 1-2 seconds. Delayed return of colour, 3 seconds or more, is an indication of poor blood perfusion often brough on by dehydration, shock or other taxicosis.
Borborygmus: This is the sound that your horse’s gut makes in digesting his feed. A horse should have normal gurgling sounds on both sides of his abdomen near his flank. During colic episodes, horses will have little or no gut sounds.
Hydration State: The best way to determine hydration is to use the “pinch test”. The skin over the shoulder should be pinched. If it snaps back very quickly, the horse is adequately hydrated. Older horses tend to have more relaxed skin, so keep this in mind.
Here is a handy chart for you to print and keep at the barn, http://www.ridenipomo.com/VitalSigns.pdf just fill in your horse’s information.
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