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Equine

General Practice Services

Health in Your Horse

As your horse’s owner you will be the best person to know when they are feeling ‘off colour’. The normal behaviour of your individual horse my vary slightly from that of all horses, so it is important to know what is normal for your horse as well as what is normal behaviour for all horses so that you can recognise any unusual behaviour or signs that may suggest that your horse may be unwell. The Nantwich Equine Centre is always on hand, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if you have any concerns regarding your horse’s wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The Healthy Horse

A healthy horse is bright, alert and inquisitive. They are social herd animals that enjoy interacting with other horses and humans; they will often be seen partaking in mutual grooming sessions, having the occasional roll and scratch, enjoying short naps throughout the day and night and playing around with field mates. A healthy horse has a good appetite and enjoys exercise, they should be willing and forward going when ridden with no signs of pain or discomfort.

A healthy horse will pass manure 6-12 times a day. The colour and consistency will vary depending on the horse’s diet (normally brown/green and soft but well formed droppings) but be aware of any changes: constipation, very dry or wet manure (diarrhoea) may indicate a problem. Urine should be either clear yellow or cloudy; again the colour varies with the diet as well as the horse’s hydration status at that time. The horse should pass both urine and manure without straining or discomfort.

The coat of a healthy horse lies close to the body and shines. Horses with darker coat colours appear to shine more than lighter ones. A dull coat may indicate poor condition, a lack of nutrition or inadequate grooming. This is not an emergency but worth mentioning to your vet next time they visit. A healthy horse’s eyes and nose should be clear and clean. A trickle of clear liquid from the nostrils is normal but any colour other than clear (green, yellow, red, brown etc) may indicate ill health.

 

The Unhealthy Horse

Any abnormal behaviour may indicate ill-health, signs to particularly look out for include:

  • A dull and depressed attitude: standing with their head low and appearing non-responsive to other horses or people to which they would normally show an interest.

  • Separating themselves from the rest of the horses in the field and not joining in with normal herd behaviour.

  • Lying down more than normal, looking at the flanks, pawing at the ground, restlessness (getting up and down repeatedly, not settling), kicking at the belly: all of these are signs of possible abdominal pain ‘colic’ which requires urgent veterinary attention.

  • Decreased appetite: a normal horse will eat for a majority of the day (little and often).

  • Drinking excessively or less than normal

  • Excessive weight loss

  • ‘Tucking up’ - the area behind the ribs appears to be sucked in indicating pain and discomfort.

  • Excessively anxious behaviour & sweating: horses do not sweat without a reason such as hot weather or exercise, sweating in the absence of these may indicate pain.

  • Yellow or green discharge from the nostrils and/or eyes

  • Changes in colour or consistency of faeces and urine

  • Difficulty in passing urine or faeces

  • A horse standing awkwardly may indicate the presence of pain somewhere in the body. A healthy horse should normally stand squarely with an equal distribution of weight between all four limbs. For example a horse rocking backwards may indicate laminitis. The horse should also be assessed when moving to check for any stiffness or lameness.

  • Dropping food out of the mouth when eating may indicate dental disease or an inability to swallow.

  • Dehydrated skin: gently lift the skin covering your horse's shoulders and let it go, the skin should instantly pop back down. If the skin falls back slowly or not at all it can be a sign of dehydration.

  • Abnormal gum colour or dehydration: feel how moist the membranes lining the lips and gums are. Most horses' gums are pink, if they are very pale, dark or muddy looking, or bright red, then contact the vet immediately. They should also feel moist and slippery; if they feel dry and tacky, this can indicate dehydration.

  • A rectal thermometer is a valued addition to any first aid kit, knowing your horse’s temperature can help you decide as to whether veterinary attention is definitely warranted and helps us get an accurate clinical picture of your horse prior to arrival. The normal adult equine temperature is 98-101 Fahrenheit or 37 - 38.5 Celsius. A temperature above 38.5 Celsius is considered abnormal and requires veterinary advice or attention.

Any changes in normal behaviour should be investigated. If you have any concerns regarding the wellbeing of your horse do not hesitate to call us immediately, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!

24 Hour Emergency Service 01270 610349