How To Determine if a Horse is Sick

Caring for horse

If you are a horse owner, or are planning on buying a horse, it is very important to know how to tell if your horse is sick. If you don't learn the signs of a sick horse you may not be able to call the veterinarian in time and could be left with serious consequences.

How to determine if a horse is sick:

  1. Look at the horse's coat. Normally, a horse's coat will be smooth and shiny and the hairs will lie flat. If the coat is dull and the hairs are sticking up, this may be a sign that the horse is sick. Also, it is healthy for a horse's skin to be moist, but make sure it isn't sweaty.
  2. You can also determine if a horse is sick by looking at how it is standing. A horse will stand squarely on all four legs and will not rest a forefoot unless the foot or leg is hurt; however, it may lift its hind feet if it is relaxed. You want to take note if your horse is lying down in odd positions. For example, if the horse is sitting like a dog, it may have laminitis; if it is lying on its back, it may have colic.
  3. Observing a horse's bowel movements is also a way to determine if it is sick. Normally, in a twenty-four hour period, a horse will have four to eight bowel movements. The bowel movements should be free of any odor and mucus and worms should not be present. The horse's urine is normally a light yellow and the horse will eliminate about five times a day.
  4. It is also very important to check the horse's temperature and pulse if you think it is sick. When taking a horse's temperature you will want to use a large animal rectal thermometer. The normal body temperature for a horse is 99.5 to 101.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.5 to 38.5 degrees Celsius, though foals and yearlings may have slightly higher temperatures. The pulse for an adult horse, at rest, should lie between twenty-six to forty beats per minute. To take the horse's pulse place your fingers on the large artery under the horse's jaw right in front of the heavy muscle of the cheek.
  5. Listen to the horse's breathing. If it is quick and labored the horse may be sick. Also, if it is sick, thick green and yellow mucus may be coming from its nose.


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