Normal Vital Signs
It’s essential that every horse owner know his or her horse’s normal, healthy resting temperature, heart rate, respiration (breathing) rate, and other vital signs and have trained the horse to allow handling for assessment of vital signs. For help on how to take your horse’s vital signs, watch our video how-to. If your horse’s resting vital signs are not in the normal ranges below, call your veterinarian to see what might be wrong. Remember that very hot and humid conditions may alter these normal values, so speak with your veterinarian.
|Temperature||99-101°F (37.2-38.3°C)||99.5-102.1°F (37.5-38.9°C)|
|Pulse||28-44 beats per minute||80-100 beats per minute|
|Respiration||10-24 breaths per minute||20-40 breaths per minute|
|Mucous membranes||Moist, healthy pink color|
|Capillary refill time*||Two seconds or less|
|Gut sounds||Gurgling, gaslike growls, “tinkling” sounds (fluid), and occasionally “roars”|
*Time it takes for the gums to return to pink after being pressed with a finger
Common Vital Sign Mistakes
- Not leaving the thermometer in long enough (false low temperature reading)
- Taking vital signs on a nervous horse (horses’ pulse and respiration rates can increase dramatically if they are nervous)
- Allowing the horse to sniff your hand to measure respiration rate (they will sniff far more quickly than their regular breathing rates)
- Double-counting heartbeats (lub-dub=one beat)
- Not regularly practicing on your horse to know what is normal!