SKILLS EVERY HORSE OWNER SHOULD HAVE TO COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR VETERINARIAN
TAKING A TEMPERATURE – This is one of the skills every horse owner should have and is incredibly valuable to your veterinarian. If your horse’s temperature is normally 99 and one day increases to 101 Fahrenheit, this may be an early indication of a problem. We recommend a digital thermometer that can be purchased at the grocery or drug store. The digital thermometer will “beep” when it is finished reading the temperature. Remember to take your horse’s temperature prior to giving any medication; anti-inflammatories (Butazolidin, Banamine) will reduce a horse’s fever.
MONITORING HEART RATE – A resting heart rate is 30 to 40 beats per minute. An easy way to count, count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four. An elevated heart rate can be indicative of pain or excitement. The heart rate can be determined via listening via a stethoscope or feeling an arterial pulse. An inexpensive stethoscope is the easiest method of determining the heart rate.
To take your horse’s heart rate via a stethoscope, stand on their left side and apply the head of the stethoscope under the elbow or “armpit”. This is a bit forward of where the girth would go. Again, count for 15 seconds and multiply by four.
To take your horse’s pulse, stand facing their head and feel inside one side of the jaw bone (about where the throat latch of the halter/bridle lays. Put your thumb against the outside of your horse’s face to steady your hand and roll your finger along the inside of the jawbone. You will feel a flexible, tube-like structure, this is an artery, just ease up on the pressure and you will feel a pulse.
RESPIRATORY RATE – A resting respiratory rate ranges from 10 to 24 breaths per minute. A respiratory or breathing rate can be taken by watching nostrils, rib cage, or flank. The difficult part of taking the respiratory rate is to ensure that the horse is standing quietly. Remember horses use their sense of smell to understand their environment therefore they will “sniff” and disrupt the respiratory rate.
GUM COLOR – MUCOUS MEMBRANES – The normal color of the gums is a light pink and when you press your finger and blanch the gum, the color should return to normal in less than 3 seconds (capillary refill time – CRT). The color of your horse’s gums can reveal several conditions, such as shock or sepsis. A sick horse may have anywhere from nearly white gums to a brick red color and have a delayed CRT.