Taking Your Horse’s Vital Signs



Every horse owner and caretaker should know the baseline vital signs of the horse(s) under their care, and they need to become comfortable with the simple methods of measuring these parameters. A reliable rectal thermometer and a watch with sweep or digital second measurement are both essential. An inexpensive stethescope can make measurements of pulse and respiration rates quick and easy. Taking the pulse from the artery in front of the cheek muscle and assessing respirations by flank and/or chest movements can be done when no stethescope is available. Your veterinarians and their technicians will gladly teach you these techniques so that you can recognize abnormalities as they occur and provide knowledgeable data when calling for veterinary assistance. The normal vital signs for a horse are:

  • Temperature: 98.5 degrees – 101.0 degrees, Time of day can be important, i.e. A.M. temperature often one degree less than P.M. temperature for individual horses
  • Resting Pulse: 28-40 beats per minute
  • Resting Respiration: 8-16 breaths per minute
  • Capillary Refill Time: less than 2 seconds
  • Blanch your horse’s gum color with finger pressure and measure how quickly the normal pink color returns.
  • Mucous Membranes: moist and pink when examined with adequate illumination



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American Association of Equine Practitioners http://www.aaep.org/ The United States Equestrian Federation http://www.usef.org/ MSPCA Equine and Farm Center http://www.mspca.org/adoption/methuen-nevins/equine-farm-center/ MSPCA Equine Safety and Ambulance Program http://www.mspca.org/adoption/methuen-nevins/equine-safety–ambulance-program/ MSPCA Adoptable Animals (Includes Farm Animals) http://www.mspca.org/adoption/methuen-nevins/nevins-farm-available-animals.html