Vital Signs (Book Excerpt)
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Understanding Equine First Aid by Michael A. Ball, DVM.
The physical examination should assess any changes in the horse’s demeanor, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, body temperature, evidence of shock, and hydration status.
For a moment, usually from a distance and outside the stall, I like simply to observe the horse. Is the horse abnormally anxious or depressed? Is the horse exhibiting signs of pain such as flank watching, pawing, or stretching? Is there evidence that the horse has gotten down and rolled? Is there bedding on its coat or in its mane and tail? If so, make a note about the abnormal posture or activity. Such changes in the general demeanor of a horse can be significant.
Don’t just evaluate the horse–evaluate its environment, too. Is there evidence that the horse has been drinking and eating? How many piles of manure have been produced today and what is the consistency? Obviously, if the horse is violently thrashing in pain or if it is bleeding severely, you do not want to spend an hour collecting this sort of information before you call in the veterinarian. But if this examination process becomes part of you daily routine, you’ll be able to note the changes in the horse’s condition in a matter of
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