We asked our staff veterinarian, Dr. Lydia Gray, for a list of the top ten things your vet wants you to know, but doesn’t always have time to tell you.
#10 Your horse’s body condition score
Being able to follow trends in your horse’s weight is important in tracking his overall health. In his medical records, record his BCS each month on a scale of 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese).
#9 The supplements and medications your horse receives
Having a list of everything that goes in your horse besides his hay and grain will not only help your veterinarian recommend appropriate preventative care on a wellness visit (nutrition, exercise, dental care, vaccinations, parasite control, etc) it will also lead to a more accurate diagnoses and correct treatment during a sick call.
#8 The risk factors of colic:
- Abrupt changes in diet
- Large amounts of grain
- Pastures that are excessively high in sugars, starches and fructans
- Increased stall time
- Lack of access to water
- Change in activity level
- Internal parasites
- Poor dentition
#7 And the signs of colic:
- Looking at, kicking or biting abdomen
- Stretching out as if to urinate
- Repeatedly lying down and getting up
- Sitting in a dog-like position or lying on the back
- Not eating or drinking
- Lack of bowel movements
- Absent or reduced gut sounds
- Elevated respiratory or heart rate
- Lip curling (Flehman response)
#6 What is an emergency in a horse:
- Wounds and bleeding, including foreign body penetrations
- Any abnormal eye issue (squinting, tearing, cloudiness, redness, swelling)
- Sudden lameness
- Allergic reactions
- Foaling problems
Contact your veterinarian right away if your horse displays any of these problems. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if it’s something that needs to be seen right away, something that can wait until the end of the day, or something that can be scheduled tomorrow. Your veterinarian will also be able to advise you on how to care for your horse until he or she arrives.
#5 What your horse eats
Even if you pay for full-care at a boarding facility, it’s still important to know what and how much your horse is fed. While your barn may have a standardized regimen, the kind and amount of hay and grain (if any) he is given are things your veterinarian will want to discuss with you during annual visits. Plus, understanding your horse’s diet will help you determine whether you’re meeting his nutritional needs, or should be adding a comprehensive vitamin/mineral supplement.
#4 What should be in your barn first aid kitIt’s often easier to buy a pre-made first aid kit than to try and make one yourself. There are a variety of quality kits on the market now—from kits for the whole barn, like the First Aid Complete Barn Kit (from $190.00) to small wound kits, like the Mini First Aid Kits (from $8.00)—so you should be able to find one that’s perfect for your situation. Just remember to immediately replace anything you use!
#3 How much your horse eats, drinks, urinates and defecates each day
Knowing that your horse eats six flakes of hay a day, drinks five gallons of water, urinates three times in his stall overnight and always defecates once while you’re tacking up and riding is responsible, not weird. That way, when your horse doesn’t follow these patterns, you have a head’s up that something might be amiss.
#2 How to take your horse’s vital signs
Knowing how to measure your horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration is a basic horsemanship skill every owner should have. If you’re not sure how to take these measurements, view our “how-to” on how to take your horse’s vital signs! Typical ranges for normal are T = 99.5 – 100.5°, P = 28-42 beats per minute, and R = 8-12 breaths per minute, but you should take your horse’s vital signs regularly so that you can figure out what is normal for him or her.
And the #1 thing your vet wishes you knew…
There is no such thing as a stupid question. Your veterinarian would much rather talk to you right away about any issues or concerns you have than later when the problem gets worse.