Equine Emergencies

How to Help Your Veterinarian Help You.

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How to Help Your Veterinarian Help You

Finding your horse injured or sick is always a stressful, frightening experience. Before calling your veterinarian on emergency duty, there are some things you can do to help expedite the process and provide information that may improve the outcome.

Feel free to ask your veterinarian questions before emergencies arise, when you are calm and can take in information more easily. We would be happy to show you how to take vital signs on a horse, how to bandage a leg, and what would be a good addition to your first aid kit, among other things. Once you are taught these skills, you can practice at home without the stress of being worried, so that when you have an actual emergency you will be more prepared.

Although it may seem silly now, please make sure you know where your horse lives! It might be helpful to write down the address of the farm or save it in your cellphone in case of emergency. We vets do remember a lot of barns but also have a ton of clients, so having that address is important to find you. Also make sure you leave the correct phone number when you call and leave a message, and remember to keep the phone turned on, in reception range, where you can hear it. I have called so many wrong numbers I can’t even count them all!

Here are some great questions to ask yourself when assessing a sick or injured horse, before making that call. If you can give your veterinarian more specific information over the phone about what signs your horse is showing, we will be better able to formulate a plan ahead of time and provide some advice while you are waiting for us to arrive.

For a horse that is inappetant or colicky:

  • How old is the horse?
  • What are the temperature, pulse and respiratory rates (per minute)?
  • Is the horse eating? Normal amounts? Chewing normally? When was the last time it ate well?
  • Is the horse passing a normal amount and consistency of manure? When was the last manure passed?
  • When was the last time you saw the horse acting normally (bright, alert)?
  • Has anything changed recently in the horse’s management (feed, stabling, medications)?
  • Is there any nasal discharge? What does it look like? One nostril or both?
  • Have you done anything to treat the condition? Any medications given?

For a horse with nasal discharge:

  • How old is the horse?
  • What are the temperature, pulse and respiratory rates (per minute)?
  • Is the horse having any difficulty breathing?
  • Are any other horses on the farm sick?
  • How long has the horse been on this farm? Any exposure to ill horses away from home?
  • How long has the horse had nasal discharge?
  • What does the nasal discharge look like (What color? Is there feed or hay in it? Is it mucousy or saliva-like?)
  • Is the discharge from one or both nostrils?
  • Is the horse coughing?
  • Have you done anything to treat the condition? Any medications given?
  • Is the horse eating and drinking normally?

For a horse with lameness:

  • How old is the horse?
  • Any prior or chronic issues with lameness?
  • How long has the horse been lame?
  • Which leg appears to be affected?
  • Is the horse lame at the walk, trot or only during certain movements?
  • Is there any swelling or heat? Where?
  • When was the horse last shod/trimmed?
  • Are there any visible wounds?
  • If there is a wound or a possible foot abscess, when was the last tetanus vaccination given?
  • Were there any events that you think may have contributed to the lameness?
  • Have you done anything to treat the condition? Any medications given?

For a horse with a wound:

  • When did you notice the wound?
  • In what time period could it have occurred?
  • Is there bleeding? Is the flow constant or pulsing?
  • Are you able to stop the bleeding by applying pressure?
  • Where is the wound located? How large an area is affected?
  • How deep? Is it over a joint?
  • Are there any foreign bodies involved (nail in foot, wood in laceration, etc.)?
  • When was the last tetanus vaccination given?
  • Have you done anything to treat the condition? Any medications given?

While not an exhaustive list of possible emergencies or information we will ultimately need to find out, being prepared in case of emergencies will help your veterinarian and hopefully help to keep you calm until we can arrive!