General Health Check
Veterinary Health Checks for Horses in Brisbane, Ipswich and Lockyer Valley
Do you know your horse’s vital signs?
Knowing your horse’s normal pulse, respiratory rate, rectal temperature, gum colour and capillary refill time will help you determine if your horse is unwell.
If you notice that one of your horse’s vital signs isn’t normal, or your horse isn’t behaving as they normally do, you should seek the advice of a veterinarian. As a horse owner, you play a crucial part in your horse’s health and it’s up to you to notice when things are quite right.
What’s involved in a general health check?
If you suspect your horse is unwell, a general health check by a veterinarian will help to determine the problem. While further testing may be needed to give a definitive diagnosis, the first steps a veterinarian will take when they examine your horse are:
- Ask for the horse’s history
- Physically examine the horse
- Take your horse’s pulse rate
- Take your horse’s respiratory rate
- Take your horse’s rectal temperature
- Check your horse’s gum colour
- Check your horse’s capillary refill time
- Listen to your horse’s gut sounds
What are the vital signs I should monitor regularly?
An abnormal rectal temperature can be one of the first signs of illness. Likewise, it’s important to monitor your horse’s urine and manure output, as well as their behaviour. At times, the signs can be subtle but, if your horse is unwell, there are ways they will tell you.
The vital signs you should monitor regularly include:
- Pulse – The normal resting pulse rate should be between 32-40 beats per minute
- Respiratory rate – The normal respiratory rate should be between 8-20 breaths per minute
- Rectal temperature – A temperature between 37.5-38.5 degrees is considered normal
- Gum colour – Your horse’s gums should be light pink in colour
- Capillary refill time – It should take approximately two seconds for capillaries to refill after a light to moderate pressure
What is normal urine and manure output?
While it’s a smelly subject, you should become familiar with the normal colour, consistency, volume and frequency of urine and manure your horse passes on a daily basis. On average, a horse should pass faeces 6-12 times a day and urinate at least once daily, more often 2-3 times.
What is normal behaviour and what behaviour signifies a problem?
Your horse’s overall demeanour can tell you much about how they’re feeling. A horse that is alert and active, with ears pricked, good posture and willingness to interact with you and other horses is one that is usually in good health.
Behaviours that indicate a potential health problem include:
- Fence walking
- Crib biting
An absence of gut sounds can also indicate a serious problem, so it’s good to keep a stethoscope on hand.
What do healthy gums look like?
Your horse’s gums should be moist and pink. However, different colours can indicate the presence of different conditions, including:
- Dark red, purple or greyish mucous membranes may suggest infection or blood poisoning
- Pale pink or whitish mucous membranes may suggest anaemia
- Yellow or orange mucous membranes may suggest jaundice
How do I check my horse’s capillary refill time?
Gently fold back your horse’s lip with one hand. With the other, press your thumb into your horse’s gums then release. You’ll see a pale patch where your thumb was placed. It should take 1-2 seconds for it to return to a healthy pink colour. Anything longer than 3 seconds signifies a problem, like dehydration or disease.
Your Next Steps
If you suspect your horse is unwell, call us immediately on (07) 5411 4554 to speak with a qualified veterinarian.