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Frequently Asked Questions

First Aid


Q1)  When can I administer first-aid and when should  I call the vet?

The most important consideration regarding this issue is your knowledge and experience of first aid for horse injuries or illnesses.  If you feel confident that you can handle minor problems, then it will be easier to determine when to call the vet and when you can deal with the problem yourself.  However, there are certain situations when a vet should be called immediately.

Some situations that require immediate veterinarian attention include: 

-profuse bleeding from a wound 
-tissues near a wound are drooping
-wound on leg causes the leg to buckle or not bear weight
-if the wound is at or near a joint
-if there is foreign material in the wound
-if the wound is blackened or oozing yellowish material
-if any baseline vital sign is markedly abnormal
-if any signs or symptoms of colic are present

Know your horse's baseline vital signs!  Write them down and keep them in your first aid kit or in an handy place in the barn.

Temperature:  99-101.5 degrees

Heart rate:  30-44 beats per minute

Respiratory rate:  10-15 breaths per minute

Gut sounds:  long, rumblings interspersed with shorter gurgles; quiet periods no longer than two minutes

Digital pulse:  subtle and difficult to feel (increased intensity-pounding- is not normal)

Gum color:  pale to bubble-gum pink

Capillary refill time:  1-2 seconds

Know your horse's baseline behavior signs!  Make a note of these and make a mental note every time you see your horse.  The behaviors listed are only suggested averages. If you observe your horse enough you will know what will be normal behavior for it.

Pasture behavior:  sticks with the herd or is a loner

Grazing behavior:  grazes with the herd or grazes by itself

Resting behavior:  naps at predictable times or not on any schedule; lies down or stands to nap

Eating behavior:  cleans up all feed or leaves bits of grain or coarse hay

Watering behavior:  usually drinks after eating or no noticeable pattern; waits to drink in stall at night; drinks 10-15 gallons a day or less/more

Elimination behavior:  8-12 bowel movements/day or more or less; stall is dry in the morning or soaked

Liberty behavior:  rolls 1-2 times a day or no noticeable pattern


There are many books on the subject of health care and first aid.  In addition to the list below, you can find more in the Veterinary Care section of the online catalog.

Other valuable resources include:

Back to First Aid Index    

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