Hello, welcome to Normal Horse Vital Signs.
Learning how to read your horse’s vital signs may help you when your horse is ill or distressed.
What part on the body do you check your horse’s vital signs?
Horses have 7 vital signs to check when you feel your horse isn’t quite himself.
The first 3 are the most important, but that doesn’t mean you don’t check the others.
Capillary refill time (CRT):
Below is the definition of each of the 7 normal horse vital signs.
Adult horse: 99-101 degrees Fahrenheit (Temperatures over 102 may possibly indicate illness or disease).
Foal:(baby): 99.5-102.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use a rectal thermometer to take your horse’s temperature. A lubricant or vaseline may be helpful for insertion. It is also a good idea to tie a string to the thermometer so it won’t get lost.
Adult horse: 28-40 beats per minute at rest.
Foal: 80-100 beats per minute at rest.
There are 3 areas to take a horse’s pulse,
- use a stethoscope and place it just behind the elbow at the heart girth.
- check the pulse under the horse’s jaw where the big artery runs across the bone.
- also, check the pulse under the fetlock joint on either side of the foot.
When taking the pulse, you can either count for 1 minute or count for 15 seconds and multiply the number of beats by 4,
Adult horse: 8-16 breaths per minute at rest.
Foals: 20-40 breaths per minute at rest.
- Watch the flank rise and fall. Each rise and fall equals one breath.
- To take your horse’s respiration rate, you can count 1 minute or count for 15 seconds and multiply the number of breaths by 4.
Capillary refill time (CRT): Indicator of blood circulation.
By checking your horse’s gums.
Use your thumb and press firmly for 2 seconds on your horse’s gums to make an indentation (this will create a white mark on the area that is being pressed). When you remove your thumb, the white mark should return to its normal color within 1-2 seconds.
Checking the mucous membranes is another indication of good blood circulation in a horse.
A horse’s mucous membranes are the gums, inside the nostrils and the lining of the eyelids.
They are a moist, healthy-looking pink color.
- Pink: is Normal
- Very pale pink: Fever, anemia, contracted capillaries (blood vessels), or blood loss.
- Grey or blue: Severe shock, depression or illness.
- Bright red: Toxicity or mild shock.
- Bright yellow: Liver problems.
Pinch the skin test.
Pinch a flap of skin for a couple of seconds then release.
The skin should immediately flatten back into place.
If the skin does not flatten back after 1 second, your horse may possibly be dehydrated.
The longer the skin stays pinched up or “tented up” the more the horse may be dehydrated.
Just by standing beside your horse, or a stethoscope,
You should be able to hear gut sounds (gurgling, water swishing, grumbling) from your horse’s stomach.
The sounds come from the inside of the stomach on the intestines.
If you do not hear any gut sounds that could indicate a problem such as colic.
All the best to you! Thank you for your interest. Please leave comment, questions, or suggestions that you may have. Michelle
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