YOUR HORSE is an important member of your family, so it is important to be prepared in case of an emergency. Emergencies are stressful, emotional, and can happen at any time. Being prepared and ready to handle different emergency situations can improve the outcome of the emergency. Make sure to have important phone numbers (i.e., your veterinarian, insurance company) easily accessible. Make sure to have a financial plan ready for an emergency visit from your veterinarian or for a trip to a referral hospital. It’s also important to have a stocked first aid kit; some suggestions for a kit are listed in the table below:
Thermometer, stethoscope, flashlight, exam gloves, shoe pullers and rasp, hoof pick and knife, ice pack, poultice, antiseptic solutions, soap, eye wash, Phenylbutazone (Bute), sterile saline, Banamine, bandage materials (Elastikon, vetwrap, gauze, roll cotton, nonstick bandage pads, standing wraps, duct tape), and wound ointment.
Warning signs of serious illness in your horse can range from subtle to very obvious. It may start as decreased appetite, laying down longer than normal, a slight change in behavior, or can manifest as severe colic, uncontrollable bleeding, ataxia (walking as though drunk), or difficulty breathing. In order to know when you have an emergency, you must know what is normal for your horse. Use the table below as a guideline and practice finding the parameters while your horse is healthy.
Guide: (NA = normal adult; NF = normal fool)
• Temperature (F) — (NA) 99-100.5, (NF) 99-100.5.
• Heart rate (beats per minute) — (NA) 30-44, (NF) 70-120
• Respiratory rate (breaths per minute) — (NA) 10-30, (NF) 20-40
• Mucous membrane color (gum color) — (NA) Pale pink, (NF) Pale pink
• Manure output (in 24 hours) — (NA) 6-10 formed piles, (NF) 2-4 soft piles
• Gut sounds — (NA) Heard in all quadrants, (NF) Heard in all quadrants
Preparation is key! If you have an emergency, remain calm and use your plan. If you board your horse, make sure that the barn manager has the appropriate details in advance. Utilize your veterinarian, in both devising your plan and in case of emergency.
column by DR. KATIE HENNESSY
BIO: Dr. Katie Hennessy graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008 with a degree in large animal health and equine medicine. She completed an advanced internship at The Equine Medical Center of Ocala and is currently the owner and practicing veterinarian at Polk Equine. Her expertise ranges from small and exotic creatures to large animals, specializing in equine medicine.