Animals / Horses / Health & Nutrition

Measuring your horse's vital signs

Measuring your horse's vital signs

It is incredibly important that you know how to take vital signs of a horse. 

It is crucial that you take your horse's vital signs when they are healthy, resting, and calm, as that is what is normal. You should record the results of the healthy and calm vitals so when they do get sick you don't have to think about what's normal you know. It is also good for you to practice taking the vitals so you can do it correctly and quickly in a possible emergency situation.

Pulse: Knowing your horses at rest pulse is a very good thing because there pulse is one of the first ways of knowing your horse is in pain. A horse's pulse can be found by the left front jawbone. Find the major artery it sticks out a little, using your forefinger press against the artery, while looking at a clock count the beats you feel for the next 15 seconds now multiply that number by 4 and you have beats per minute. The average at rest, adult horse is about 30-40 beats per minute.

Temperature: Taking a horse's temperature is a pretty simple thing to do, it is done rectally. You don't need any special thermometer you can pick one up from your local drug store. You will need to attach a string to the end so that the thermometer does not get lost (not a fun thing!) Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the tip, move the horses tail to the side, and slip the thermometer in. Do not stand directly behind the horse as some do not care for this but most horses don't even notice. Normal temperature for a horse is 99-101 F.

Hydration: Checking hydration can be done by simply pinching some skin on the horses neck. Once you pull the skin away from the horse a little release it and see how fast it goes back flat. It should happen pretty quick if it takes more than 2-3 seconds or does not go back flat at all the horse is dehydrated. 

Capillary Refill TIme: To check CRT (capillary refill time) lift the horses top lip and press you thumb against their gum for 3-5 seconds and let go, the place where your thumb was should go from white to a healthy pink in 1-3 seconds.

Gut Sounds: Gut sounds are a very good thing, it means the stomach is working properly. How you listen for gut sounds is by pressing a stethoscope or your ear up to the horse's flank area, just past their last rib. You should hear gurgling noises (kind of the same sounds as your stomach makes when you are hungry or have an upset belly.) If you don't hear these noises on both sides there might be an issue.


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