Colic is the most common equine emergency problem, and one of the main causes of equid deaths. Thehorse owners’ ability to recognise colic is a critical first step in determiningcase outcome  A recent study in the UK shed light on some basic gaps in knowledge of horse owners are the first symptoms of recognising colic.

The Survey was completed by over 1000 horse owner respondents and many of them had significant gaps in their knowledge of normal vital sign parameters in assessing a horse's state of wellbeing - specifically for a suspected colic.  Only 25% of these horse owners were able to give an appropriate value for normal respiritory rates and only 31% knew what a normal temperature of a horse was.  30% were unsure of the normal heart rate and a further 35% gave incorrect values - so only 35% knew what a normal heart rate range should be.

For Reference :

Know your Vital Signs:

A normal resting horse has a heart rate of 38-40 beats per minute, foals (70-120 bpm), yearlings (45-60 bpm) and 2 year olds (40-50 bpm). A rate above 80 in a resting horse should be considered a concern.

Temperature: 37.2-38.3°C (above 38°C can be a cause for concern if the day is cool and would need be monitored)  New born foals for the first few days may have a temperature up to 37.5-38.9°C without concern - after a week old, over 38.3°C would again be of concern.   

Respiration (breathing rate): generally 10-24 breaths per minute  (foals - 20-40)

Muscous Membranes (gums); should be moist and a healthy pink colour.  If you push on one, it should go white then straight away flush back to pink.

Know your Horse:

Some horses run a little hot, or a little cold as their normal.  A temperature taken first thing in the morning is often on the cooler end of the range - one taken in the evening on a hot day will be towards the top end of range.    Regularly take your horse's vital signs so that you know what's normal for your horse.  (Always keep a stethescope and thermometer in your first aid kit and remember to keep the thermometer in long enough to get a full ready of the temperature).

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