Want to Know?

Where is the best web site for general information on horse health issues?

Check out http://www.myhorsematters.com/horsehealth.html, and while you are there look over the My Horse Matters home page. This site is provided by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).

How do I know when to call a vet?


Obviously it is unlikely that your horse will tell you when it is not feeling well, but actually they do if one is familiar and observant of any change in the behavior, posture, pattern, appetite, or appearance that differ from what is considered normal. Therefore, the first important step in recognizing illness is to know what is or can be normal.

Some measures of what is normal can be generalized to all horses, such as a normal body temperature of 37.5 to 38°C (99.5-100.5°F). Other measures of what is normal may be specific to an individual horse, such as a horse that may like to lie down to sleep for a few hours each night. The first sort of measure, representing vital signs, is something every horse owner should have available. The second sort, individual animal patterns, is something an owner becomes familiar with during contact time with a horse. Both measures of normality are valuable in determining whether a horse is healthy or whether it needs veterinary attention.

A safe rule of thumb for deciding whether or not to call a vet is if any of the specific signs of disease (cough, nasal discharge, diarrhea, frequent urination, etc.) occur in combination with one or more of the nonspecific signs of disease (fever, loss of appetite, depression, exercise intolerance), then a veterinarian should examine the horse.

Always keep a large-animal thermometer on hand. If you see that your horse is not behaving in its usual or typical manner, the first step is to take its vital signs. Take the horse's temperature, pulse and respiratory rate to determine any variation from normal. Purchase an inexpensive stethoscope and practice using it. Giving your veterinarian your horses vital signs may alert the veterinarian to a potentially serious condition or the same information may save you a more expensive emergency call.


If a horse is colicky, remove all feed from the stall or paddock. Walk it for 10 minutes and return it to the stall. It's fine if the horse lies down quietly (not rolling). Note any manure passed. If the horse begins to roll, encourage it to rise and walk for 10 minutes again. If there is evidence that the pain is increasing and the vet has not arrived, communicate this to the veterinarian's office so that they can upgrade the status of the emergency.

If your horse is down rolling, encourage the horse to rise, being aware of your own safety. Wait for the horse to exhibit a quieter episodes; then get a halter on it and encourage it to rise. Walk the animal for 10 minutes and then reassess the pain level. If the horse is still trying to go down and roll, then keep walking and communicate with your veterinarian's office immediately that you have a horse with severe colic.

First Aid for Cuts and Other Wounds

If your horse sustains a cut or other wound, clean it with cool water and very mild soap. If the wound is actively bleeding, apply pressure either by using a bandage or by direct pressure. If the animal sustains a wound on the leg below the carpus (knee) or the hock, apply a full standing bandage with quilts or sheet cottons. This will prevent excessive swelling before the vet arrives and increase the likelihood that the wound can be sutured closed.

Nail Punctures

For nail punctures to the hoof, leave a fully embedded nail in the foot until the veterinarian arrives. That way, an x-ray can be taken to determine the depth of penetration and structures involved. If you must remove the nail because it is protruding from the sole and is not fully embedded, if possible move the horse onto clean grass or concrete and thoroughly clean the foot prior to removing the nail. Have bandage material on hand when the nail is removed as welol. Taking these steps are important because once the nail is removed you do not want to put is down in the dirt and pack foreign material into the opening. Note the direction of penetrations and mark the nail for depth of penetration.

Eye Injuries

For serious eye problems, leave the horse alone. Usually, the horse will not allow you to evaluate the eye without causing more excitement. Wait for the veterinarian.

General Health

The keys to recognition of illness and disease in a horse are daily observation and good record-keeping. A safe rule of thumb for deciding whether or not to call a vet is if any of the specific signs of disease (cough, nasal discharge, diarrhea, frequent urination, etc.) occur in combination with one or more of the nonspecific signs of disease (fever, loss of appetite, depression, exercise intolerance), then a veterinarian should examine the horse. For example, if the horse coughs in a dusty arena but exercises normally, has no fever and a normal appetite, try wetting down the arena before exercise. On the other hand, if the horse has a fever and/or exercise intolerance, a veterinarian should examine the horse.

What is the difference between film and digital X-Ray

Film and Digital X-Rays are obtained with the same X-Ray generator, the difference is in how the image is captured. With film images a sheet of X-Ray film is placed inside a cassette. When X-Ray beams hit the cassette the the film is exposed. The film is them processed to reveal the image. A digital cassette captures the image on an image sensor. The digital information is then downloaded to a computer to process and display the data.

Digital images are sharper and provide greater detail than conventional radiographs. The image brightness can be varied during viewing so that both soft tissue and dense bone can be observed with the same exposure. You may have had cases where your veterinarian took two or more x-rays of your horse’s head, for instance, looking for evidence of soft tissue disease like fluid in a sinus and a higher energy exposure to search for an infected tooth. With digital radiography one exposure can be manipulated digitally to see soft tissue, bone and teeth using the same exposure.

Areas of interest can be magnified for greater detail to study small or suspected lesions. Angle and distance measurements can be done directly on the digital image of a foot. allowing farriers to directly see how the coffin bone is positioned within the hoof capsule. Complicated foot cases can be followed better over time by comparing images and measurements from previous studies.

Radiographic studies captured digitally are available within seconds. This is a huge advantage when x-raying the horse since proper positioning and motion can be evaluated immediately. Retakes can be obtained at once rather than having to come back after the films have been developed. Digital images can be burned to a CD, emailed, printed onto regular paper or on to x-ray film

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