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Frequently Asked Questions

First Aid

     

Q4)  What can I do with an ill or injured horse while I am waiting for the vet to arrive?

Generally, it depends on the situation or the type of injury (problem with the musculoskeletal systems) or illness (problem with the internal systems) you are dealing with.  Most situations require common sense - think about what would make the horse stable and/or comfortable until the vet arrives.  Never administer a sedative or tranquilizer to an injured horse that is frantic, sweating profusely, thrashing or panicked. This may slow the heart rate enough to create a dangerous situation for the horse.

Symptoms that might indicate an illness include nasal discharge, coughing, roaring, bloody nose, drooling or excessive slobbering, abnormal gum color, lack of appetite, dull coat or dull eyes, lethargy, rapid or difficult respiration, elevated temperature, unusual posture, abnormal urine or feces, abnormal mental state (ranging from wandering aimlessly to frenzied hyperactivity), or bizarre gait.  Know your horse's baseline behaviors and call your vet if a behavior is abnormal.

For symptoms of illness, the general guidelines to follow while you are waiting for the vet to arrive are:

  • isolate your horse: confine it to a stall or paddock away from other horses in case the illness is contagious
  • remove protruding objects in the stall if your horse is thrashing or frantic
  • remove feed: generally having water available is okay (unless the horse is choking or coughing violently)
  • cool your horse if its temperature is elevated: sponge on cool water, or hose with cool water if this is tolerable
  • ice a swollen area with a flexible ice pack: 5 minutes on, 15 minutes off
  • walk your horse if  it is showing signs of  colic
  • if your horse is struggling to stay up, let it lie down; 
  • don't try to get your down horse up if it absolutely refuses to get up on its own or is thrashing (no amount of kicking, yelling or pulling will get it up - this would only add to the stress of the situation); try to keep it out of harm's way and keep yourself safe

For signs of an injury (puncture wound, cut/laceration, lameness) these general guidelines apply while you are waiting for the vet to arrive:

  • if a wound is bleeding profusely, calm your horse if it is excited - its heart will beat faster causing more blood flow; stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure on the wound with a clean cloth or gauze squares; if an ice pack is available, put the ice pack between the layers of cloth to help stop the bleeding; apply a pressure bandage after the wound has stopped bleeding
  • if your horse is mildly to severely lame, keep your horse from moving - confine it to a stall or small paddock -  provide a companion horse to help keep your horse calm; if you are relatively certain you know where the lameness is located, apply an ice pack - 5 minutes on and 5 minutes off; apply a support wrap; don't feed until your vet rules out laminitis as a cause of the lameness

This information is not intended to be medical advice. Please call your vet if the situation warrants it.  You know your horse the best; you know when he is showing symptoms that aren't "quite right" and might indicate illness.  For any severe injury, call your vet immediately and know what to do until the vet arrives.

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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