Monday, April 2, 2012

The Basics: Horse Vital Information

There are some key pieces of information all horse owners need to know about their horse. In case of emergency, these pieces of information will be helpful in better preparing and informing your veterinarian to any problems that your horse may have. Included in the information will be the normal temperature, resting pulse, and respiration. The horse owner will need to take these vital signs over the course of a few days and then average them out. 

Normal Temperature:

A horse's normal temperature is between 99-101 degrees Fahrenheit. A foal's normal temperature is a little higher than that, measuring 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit.  Temperature may increase by up to 3 degrees depeding on ambient temperature, level of exercise, and the degree of dehydration.
In order to measure normal temperature, you will need, preferrably, a digital thermometer, and some vaseline. The temperature will be taken rectally, and the vaseline will help with insertion.

Resting Pulse:

A horse's normal resting pulse is between 32-48 beats per minute. A foal's normal pulse is about 80-120 beats per minute. Age, ambient temperature, humidity, exercise, and excitement can all affect the horse's heart rate.
In order to measure the resting pulse, you will need a stethoscope. Place the stethoscope over the ribs, right behind the elbow.

Breathing Rate:

A horse's normal breathing rate is between 12-16 breaths per minute. A foal's normal breathing rate is about 30-40 breaths per minute. However, just with the other two, ambient temperature, humidity, exercise, and excitement can affect your horse's breathing rate.

In order to measure the breathing rate, watch the nostrils or flanks and count the number of times the horse breathes out.
Two more tests that I like to have available to both myself and the veterinarian is the degree of dehydration test and the capillary refill test.

Degree of Dehydration:

This test is to check the horse's fluid levels, so to say. A horse should drink a minimum of 5 gallons per day. I know, that sounds like a lot of water, but horses (excluding minis) are big animals and need to stay hydrated.

For this one, you are going to pinch the skin on the horse's neck. Make sure that it is within the "IM shot trianlge," or near the center of the neck. If the skin flattens back into place when you let go in less than 1 second, the horse is fine. If it doesn't, it means the horse isn't drinking enough water, he is dehydrated. If the horse is dehydrated, try flavoring the water, such as apple juice.

Capillary Refill:

This test measure the time that it takes blood to refill the blanched tissues in the gums, which indicates blood circulation.

Lift your horse's upper lip up and firmly press your thumb against his gums for 2 seconds to create a white mark. This white mark should return to the normal pink color within 1-2 seconds after releasing the pressure.  If the CRT takes longer than 2 seconds, the horse may have shock. If the gums (or any other mucous membrane) is an odd color, like very pink pale, bright red, grayish blue or bright yellow, call a veterinarian immediately.

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