Taking Vital Signs

Every horse owner or caretaker should know how to take a horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration.

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Taking Vital Signs
The easiest place to take your horse's heart rate is the mandibular artery located just under the jaw. Photo Credit: The Horse Staff
Temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR)–are the absolute basics every horse owner or caretaker should know if they want to take the best care of their animals. These three vital signs are just the bare bones of a physical examination, but they can greatly help you–and your veterinarian–when you think your horse might be sick. Just knowing these three values for your horse can give your veterinarian great insight as to just how sick or injured your horse could be.

For example, say this morning while feeding you found a boarder’s horse standing in a small puddle of blood in the pasture. The blood evidently came from a wound near the pastern. The horse is acting tired, but looks OK otherwise. The wound isn’t deep, but the lower leg has a fair amount of blood on it. You call your vet and tell him it’s not serious. “He looks all right to me,” you say.

But is he?

Three hours later your vet finds him dead in his stall

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Written by:

Christina S. Cable, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, owns Early Winter Equine in Lansing, New York. The practice focuses on primary care of mares and foals and performance horse problems.

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