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The Top 10 Things Your Vet Wants You to Know

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:

  • Pawing
  • 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:

  • Colic
  • Wounds and bleeding, including foreign body penetrations
  • Any abnormal eye issue (squinting, tearing, cloudiness, redness, swelling)
  • Sudden lameness
  • Allergic reactions
  • Choke
  • 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 kit

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#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.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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9 comments on “The Top 10 Things Your Vet Wants You to Know
  1. teresaponziani says:

    Wonderful article. Thanks for posting. More horse owners need to take this level of responsibility.

  2. judy ptacek says:

    I have 3 mares, they are not show horses, or fancy, or
    expensive. They are just horses-farm pets. But I want them to be healthy and happy too. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
    Doesn’t anyone out there just have horses for fun because they love them?

    • lindsay hanna says:

      yes id do i share two horses with my friend Tiffany the oldest is 4 years old it is a mare her name is Bella but we call her bell bells the youngest is sissy another mare shes 4 too but we didn’t get her till a year ago so i say shes younger i want to do barrel racing but they r meant for pets mostly.p.s. i still love them no matter what!!!!!!

    • Trudy Mclellan says:

      Hi Judy
      I do , have them just for fun that is. None of them are rideable. They are all in their 20’s & I just enjoy them. I like to photograph them in all seasons. They are pets that just happen to live in the barn. Yes most sights are about people who do this sport or that with them & when they change interests, they just sell the horse & buy another. I never understand that philosophy. Even if any of mine could be ridden, I would only do trail riding or pasture riding at a nice easy pace. There should be a sight just for people who love their horses & keep them & just enjoy their beauty. There have to be others out there in cyber space.

    • Ann Briggs says:

      Yeah, I do. I do like to just ride back in the woods, just slow and easy. Most of all I get great joy at seeing them run free and frolic around the field.

      Standing and looking around, thinking boy this is a great life.

  3. Ellen says:

    What a TERRIFIC! Article! Thanks so much Smartpak!

  4. Diane Ernst says:

    We have two mares that foal every year. We gentle the foals, train them to lead, back, and just be great horses. Then we wean and sell the babies and start over. I could ride one of the mares, but choose not to do so. Most people think it’s strange to “not ride” but I totally agree that just watching these incredibly graceful, beautiful animals is all I need. They lower my blood pressure.

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