The most common equine emergencies are: colic, skin wounds, eye injuries, tying up, severe lameness (abscess, fracture, laminitis), and infections (bacterial, viral). Having an emergency kit of medications from your veterinarian can help you treat your horse until the veterinarian arrives. In some cases it may save your horse’s life or save a vet call.
Always advise your vet of emergency situations and ask for advice on treatment before administrating any medications. If there is an open wound, cover it to keep it clean. Apply a firm wrap to control bleeding and minimize swelling while waiting for your vet’s advice. If there is still bleeding from a limb, a tourniquet may be applied above the wound to decrease the blood flow.
For colic, giving KAM’s KLPP (a pre & probiotic) and hand walking may help. Having FRE liquid, a natural anti-inflammatory, available for injuries will help with the pain, heat, and swelling. You can support the immune system with transfer factors (TF-Formula) to help prevent or fight infections (bacterial, viral, and fungal). TF may be used alone or in combination with drug therapies. As a general rule, don’t give any grain or oral medications without checking with your vet if you are unsure of the horse’s problem.
Knowing what is “normal” is helpful to determine abnormal to evaluate your horse. The pulse (heart rate) at rest is usually 28-44 beats per minute for an adult horse. Foals are faster. A horse cantering can have a heart rate over 200 beats per minute. Pain, fear, excitement, exercise, and disease can increase the pulse.
The pulse may be taken by feeling the heart beat (place your fingertips between the ribs in the right axilla, in front of where the girth would be), listening to the heart beat in this area with a stethoscope, or feeling the artery pulse along the bottom of the jaw.
Normal respiratory rate for a horse at rest is 12-20 breaths/min (30-40 for foals). A horse’s temperature will vary on its environment, but normal is 99.8-101.3 F. On a hot day and after exercise, the temperature will be above normal. On a cold winter day and standing around it may be lower than 99.8 F. If you are not sure if your horse’s temperature is normal, compare it to a few other horses in the same area. A digital thermometer used rectally is a good way to take the temperature.
Capillary refill time (CRT) and color of the mucous membranes, gums, is helpful to check for dehydration, shock, toxicity, and anemia. Being able to feel and evaluate the digital pulses to the hooves can help monitor for abscess and laminitis. Listening for gut sounds can help with colic. Ask your vet to show you how to check the CRT, find the digital pulse in the legs, where to listen for the pulse and gut sounds. Then practice doing your exam and learning what is “normal” for your horse.
This tip was brought to you by KAM Animal Services, home of KAM’s “Equine Learning Circle” FREE webinars, which will take place twice a month. Go to www.kamanimalservices.com to sign up for the next webinars attended by horse enthusiasts, students, vets and more. These webinars will conclude with a question and answer session, so be ready with your nutrition questions.