Ten times you absolutely need to call the vet
1) Any neurologic signs. Signs of neurologic disease include lack of coordination, severe weakness, circling, a “wobbly” gait, tilting of the head, changes in attitude, lack of response to surroundings and recumbency without the ability or desire to get up. Neurologic disease can manifest itself many ways, but it is important to deliver immediate therapy to prevent further damage to the brain, spinal cord and peripherial nerves. Should you notice neurologic signs mentioned above, put your horse in an enclosed, sturdy corral or stall away form other horses. If the horse is so weak or uncoordinated that he/she cannot safely walk, it should not be moved as this is dangerous to the people involved. All food should be removed from the area and the veterinarian should be called immediately.
2) Moderate to severe diarrhea, especially when accompanied by depression While some horse will develop looser manure and not develop problems. Profuse diarrhea that is watery and increased in frequency is a cause for concern. Diarrhea can cause severe dehydration and colic in a very short period of time. The veterinarian should be called to assess the horse’s comfort, deliver fluids and electrolytes to correct dehydration and attempt to define the cause of diarrhea. A horse with diarrhea should be strictly quarantined from all other horses. In addition, food should initially be removed, but the horse should always have access to water. If the owner is capable of taking the horse’s temperature, this will be valuable information for the veterinarian when he/she is called.
3) Severe swelling of an entire limb Causes for severe swelling of one limb range from severe infection to broken bones. Regardless of the cause, a vet should evaluate the horse as soon as possible. A horse with a severely swollen limb should be moved as little as possible. If cold water is available near the horse, the vet may instruct you to cold hose the leg while waiting for them to arrive.
4) A down horse that cannot get up Don’t wait to call, things will not get better without treatment! Keep things quiet around the horse and wait for the vet. Be careful around these horses as they can frequently be dangerous to people when struggling.
5) A foal that does not stand to nurse in one hour or appears depressed at birth Foals can become critically ill within hours so immediate care is imperative. Never hesitate to call with foal questions!
6) A mare in stage II labor for more than 30 minutes Stage II labor begins when the “water breaks” and ends when the foal is born. This whole process should take 45 minutes or less. If it has been 30 minutes since the water has broken, and things do not seem to be progressing, call your vet.
7) Severe lacerations or puncture wounds Please see our page on scrapes, cuts and puncture wounds.
9) Fever of unknown origin Normal temperature in an adult horse is 99.5-100.5 degrees Fahrenheit. A foal’s temperature will be slightly higher. Temperatures may increase slightly with hot summer temperatures, so a temperature of 101 in the hot sun may be normal for a horse. Also remember that a horse’s temperature may be lower in the morning and higher in the late afternoon and evening. It is a good idea to get a range of normal for your individual horse by taking his/her temperature several times a day when they are healthy. A depressed horse with an increased temperature is one to be concerned about.
10) Severe respiratory distress. These also will not usually correct on their own. Move these horse as little as possible, put them in a well ventilated, preferably outside location with fans where available. Insure that these horses are as cool as possible and call the vet.