When to call the vet for your horse

30th May 2013
Beryl Shuttleworth
3 Responses

When to call the vet for your horse? When is it okay to self-medicate your horse (with, for example, herbs) and when is it essential to call the vet? Is it ever acceptable to take the advice of Joe Bloggs from the “I love my pony” forum? (PS I made that up…) Or perhaps you are worried that your vet might become irritated when you call on a daily basis.


We all belong to various forums on the internet. And Facebook and Twitter. All of which are great for finding advice, comparing opinions, etc. But in some circumstances, we shouldn’t be asking laypeople for advice, we should be on the phone to our vet.

When advice is given, it is often fairly obvious when it is good advice – eg. from reputable sites (www.thehorse.com comes to my mind immediately) or veterinary pages or scientific papers. Use your common sense.

Know your horse

The better you know your horse and his or her vital signs, the more likely you are to pick up when he or she is ill. Know his or her normal resting heart rate, respiration rate, temperature. Use grooming sessions as an opportunity to check for cuts, swelling, heat.

What is normal?

  • temperature:    37.7 to 38.6 degrees Celcius
  • respiration:         12 to 16 breaths per minute
  • heart rate:          32 to 48 beats per minute

Get on the phone immediately if

  • there is heavy bleeding. Try to stop it while you wait;
  • there are colic symptoms. IMO you can’t take chances with colic. You need to get it looked at by a professional as early as possible. Symptoms include: sweating, rolling, getting up and down repeatedly, looking at the abdomen;
  • there are neurological symptoms  – circling, falling over, staggering;
  • a limb is obviously fractured;
  • the urine contains blood;
  • the horse refuses food;
  • the horse is straining to urinate or defecate;
  • the horse is choking – you will know this is happening when you see food coming out the nostrils and the neck outstretched;
  • the temperature or any other vital sign is significantly out of range;
  • the horse has been bitten by a snake;
  • the horse has  bad diarrhoea.

3 Responses

  1. I always leave a list of things to watch for when I go on vacation. I never even thought to add neurological symptoms to the list!! Genius. 🙂

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