Horse Health Care: How to Monitor an Ill Horse

This weekend two of my clients had seriously ill horses. Both lived far enough away that it was not easy to see the horses.

In one case no vet was available at all due to the holiday weekend so all work was done over the phone. This would not have been possible without the excellent observation and reporting of symptoms and response to treatment.

How to Evaluate a Sick Horse

Here is what to look for in evaluating a sick horse. This is a minimum set of data you would like to give your conventional vet to help him evaluate your horse’s condition.

* Look at the overall demeanor. Is he alert or depressed?

* Then look at appetite and thirst.

* Next notice if he has passed manure or urine recently.

* Check his temperature, pulse and respiration.

* See if he is dehydrated and look at his gum color and capillary refill time.

A holistic practitioner will want this information and then ask for more details.

* Has this condition ever occurred in your horse before? If so, are the symptoms the same or different?

* What treatment was used before and was it effective?

* Is there anything different in your horse’s behavior from usual? For example is he more or less friendly than usual?

* Your holistic vet will want to know if the symptoms came on quickly or gradually and if they get worse under certain conditions or at different times during the day.

Once your horse’s condition is stabilized your powers of observation will guide your vet in deciding the next course of treatment. In addition to the previous information you will now be looking for signs of recovery. Vital signs such as temperature, pulse and respiration may not return to normal immediately so it is important for you to look for more subtle clues.

Your horse’s sense of well being is one of your best indicators. Sometimes this is as much a feeling you have than actual physical changes.

* If your horse’s condition came on gradually you will see the last symptoms to appear improving first and progressing to the earliest symptom.

* His internal organs should heal first then the more external ones. For example, if your horse had pneumonia you would expect his breathing to improve before his nasal discharge cleared. If he stopped having discharge but his breathing became more difficult this would not be the correct healing response you are wanting.

* The first hint of return of thirst and appetite as well as normal elimination are also very important.

* The return of normal behavior is a very good sign even if vital signs are not totally normal.

Train yourself to know your horse’s normal behavior and learn to observe details. You could save your horse’s life by developing these skills.

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