Knowing the normal values for body temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate in your horse can be very useful in identifying stress or early signs of disease. Any changes from these normal values may indicate a problem.
Below is a list of normal values.
Body (rectal) temperature
Normal Temperature: 37.5-38.5° C
The temperature is taken by inserting the thermometer into the anus of the horse and holding it against the side of the rectum for at least a minute and a half.
An elevated temperature may require immediate veterinary consultation. Mercury thermometers are more dependable than digital thermometers.
Breathing (respiratory) rate
At rest: 10-14 breaths minute
Breathing rate can be measured by watching the movement of the chest.
The rate can often be raised when the horse is stressed or sick.
At rest: 28-40 beats per minute
The heart rate is measured with a stethoscope or the palm of the hand placed at the height of the elbow on the left hand side of the chest or by feeling the pulse in the lower leg or under the jaw.
If at rest the heart rate is significantly raised, this may be a sign that the horse is in pain.
Routine Veterinary Care
It is advisable to have an annual health examination performed by your veterinarian.
You will likely perform routine checks on your horse as a second nature every time you tend to your horse. The following is a useful check list to evaluate your horse on a regular basis:
- Skin and coat
- Eating and chewing
- Eyes and nose
- Urine and faeces
- Sheath, vagina
- Appetite and water intake
If anything appears out of the ordinary, contact your veterinarian who will be able to give you advice.
When to Call your Veterinarian
According to the Equine Industry Welfare Guidelines for Horses, Ponies and Donkeys in the UK, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately if there are any signs of:
- Acute abdominal pain or colic
- Serious tissue injury such as wounds including skin lacerations and severe abrasions, deep puncture wounds, severe hemorrhage and suspected bone fractures or damage to the eyes
- Evidence of straining for more than 30 minutes by a mare due to foal
- Inability to rise or stand
- Inability or abnormal reluctance to move
- Severe diarrhoea
- Prolonged/abnormal sweating, high temperature, anxiety, restlessness or loss of appetite
- Food coming out of nostrils (choke)
- Any other signs of acute pain or injury
- Respiratory distress
- Any decrease in alertness or appetite in a foal
A veterinarian should be consulted the next working day having become aware of the following conditions:
- Marked lameness that has not responded to normal first aid treatment
- Injury that has not responded to normal first aid treatment
- Signs of infectious disease, nasal discharge, elevated temperature, enlarged lymph nodes or cough
- Sustained loss of appetite
- Persistent weight loss or difficulty eating, chewing, or swallowing
- Skin conditions that have not responded to treatment, including saddle sores and girth galls
- Other sub-acute illness or injury
This list is of minimum indications towards the attention that should be available to animals in distress.