Horse Facts

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Horse Care

The Ultimate guide-Know your Horse’s Body Temperature

If you own a horse it is absolutely essential that you know your horse, and know to pinpoint any abnormalities in a horse.  It is also essential that you know its body heat normal, resting, temperature, heart rate, respiration, breathing rate and or other vital signs.  The horse should be well trained for you to be able to handle it and make an assessment for any vital signs.  If your horse’s vital signs are normal as seen in the chart below there is no necessity to call in the Veterinarian.  But remember temperatures can change and fluctuate during the hot, cold and winter weather season and or after a hard day’s work of horse running, show jumping, racing, etc.

Horse’s Body Temperature

Normal Horse Temperature degrees

horse body temperature

  • When the gums are pressed with the finger the time it takes to become pink again.

Don’t make these common vital sign mistakes

  • Do not remove the thermometer until the proper time of temperature reading.
  • Do not take the temperature of a horse that is excited and or nervous, wait until the horse is quiet and calm to take its temperature,  as when nervous its pulse rate can go up.
  • Don’t allow it to sniff your hand as this can raise the regular breathing rate than the normal breathing rate.
  • Do not double count the heartbeat sounds (lub-dub-one beat)
  • Do regular practicing on your horse to make sure that it is normal.

The body temperature 39 in a Horse- Normal?

When a horse is resting the normal body temperature range is between 37.5 degrees Celsius that is (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) 38◦C (101◦F).  After this range, the fever starts at 39 degrees Celsius.  If the temperature goes beyond 40◦C (104◦F), in a horse and is higher than the normal temperature then it can be called a fever, but it can also be caused by something that can trigger the increase of the temperature. However, if it goes beyond the ‘Normal” limit then you should consult a Veterinarian for further investigations.

What is A low temperature for a Horse?

Horse temperature low…

What does a low temperature mean in a horse?  Is it cause for alarm?  Should you call in your Veterinarian?

A low temperature in horses is somewhat uncommon, but sometimes in adult horses it can result from an accident, from shock, trauma, lying down in the cold, rain, wet and windy conditions or after general and prolonged anesthesia the temperature can go down in these cases.  However, it is more common in young foals because they are small in size.  It can happen also to very old horses that have been in the cold for a very long time.  Sometimes the reading of the thermometer can also give a false reading of the temperature so check to see whether it is an error, if the horse is in its normal prancing self having sugar cubes from the palm of your hand !  then the horse is as fit as a fiddle!

Always check to see whether you have inserted the thermometer deep enough into the rectal.  Check to see whether the thermometer is against a fecal ball as this is bound to reduce the reading on the thermometer.  Also, see that you give it ample time for its reading to be ready without taking it out too soon.

However, you may call the Veterinarian if you notice the following symptoms.

  • The horse is lying down and unable to get up.
  • Shock, Ears, and limbs are cold, a pulse is weak and rapid.
  • Very cold weather
  • Limbs tipped up
  • Depressed, dull sick or lethargic
  • Unconscious, lying down and not responsive
  • If it’s a Foal, – fails to stand or nurse
  • Newborn foal – the heart rate is slow
  • The newborn foal is depressed, not nursing, unconscious, or lying down and not responsive.

If you notice the above signs, you should follow the following rules until your veterinarian comes

Make your observations carefully using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) if the horse is showing any signs of the above or you have noticed any other abnormalities and or if the horse shows signs of hypothermia, you must call your Vet. Immediately.  Your doctor will evaluate the horse’s situation, if the horse is lying down and unable to get up and trembling or wet and shivering make it get up and take it to a shelter and wrap the horse in a blanket, keep him standing up and keep him warm.

If the horse is acting in his normal happy self but still has a low temperature don’t panic just watch him for a couple of hours take the temperature again, and if still low then call in your veterinarian.

Horse’s Body Temperature

Should I be alarmed at A Horse’s body Temperature of 104?

A horse having a temperature of over 104◦F (40◦) High fever, causes some discomfort but it is not all that bad, a bit harmless, however, having a temperature of 106◦F (41.1◦C) is a very high fever and can be cause for concern.  It is then imperative that this high fever is brought down as soon as possible.  Fever can be very dangerous if the temperature goes up or above 108◦F (42.3◦C).

How do you tell if a horse has a high fever?

If you think your horse is sick. Feeling lifeless and lethargic, first of all, you should check its pulse and temperature.  Examine the eyes, ears, and mouth for any kind of discharge.  If these are apparent then there is something wrong with the horse.  Look for common symptoms like a dull coat, dark urine or excessive sweating, shivering, chills, rapid pulse rate, fluctuation in skin temperature or reddening of the gums.  You should monitor your horse’s temperature every now and again.  If it is at 38.3 degrees, 38.3 -38.8, and so forth then keep on checking every couple of hours until the fever goes down or breaks.  If the temperature goes beyond 38.8, then you call your vet.  High temperature is a sign of infection or severe inflammation.

The rise in body temperature is one of the first things and easily recognized symptoms of many a horse illness.  The best course of action to take is to note how high the fever is and how long it lasts if the fever gets too high the hypothalamus may switch to the cooling mode.  During the 2nd stage of fever in a horse, it involves the sweating and panting, dilation of the blood vessels at the skin surface, sending more blood to the skin for cooling.  This will make the skin feel hot.  The horse starts to breathe hard trying to get rid of the extra heat via the respiratory system.

More about fever…

If your horse is off his food and generally quiet and stand in a corner, then you will know that something is wrong with him.  However to ascertain this and to be certain it is best that you take his temperature.  You need to know your horse’s normal temperature to read and understand the results.  A thermometer reading of 100 may be normal for most of the horses, but if your horse’s temperature is closer to 98, then 100 might be a mild fever.

So if the horse has a mild fever and no other illnesses, the veterinarian will try to identify the cause.  Remember to give the history of your horse during the past few weeks or days which will be very helpful in giving a proper diagnosis of the illness present of the horse.  Change of diet, diarrhea, exposure to other horses or cold weather, wounds or some kind of injury whatever that may have happened in the last few days are all vital clues to be given to the veterinarian which will be much easier for the doctor to make a good diagnosis and cause of the fever.

  If the veterinarian thinks it is something more serious he will order tests and blood work to be done.  Most often mild fevers can be very elusive, if it can be specifically pinpointed as to a bacteria or virus, then it will be much easier in knowing what medication or treatment the horse needs.

What is a high temperature for a horse?

A horse’s normal temperature should read about 99 and 101 degrees F, however, there are times when the horse’s body becomes hot and the temperature rises not because he is sick but because of intense heat on hot days or after exercise or running around the field or after heavy work by its handler.

The horse’s temperature can also rise during the evening rather than in the morning.  Mares in stages of estrus may have temperatures higher than their normal.  However you must take into note if the horse’s rectal temperature goes up for no reason at all, then it is due to a fever.  This is one of the first signs of illness.  A fever may indicate that the horse’s body is trying to combat pathogens, but it is not clear how the fever does this.  If the fever is just mild with two or three degrees higher than the normal temperature for a few days, then it is likely that it is fighting off a minor infection.

Horse was vaccinated then the body is building up its immunity levels.  If it is a mild fever it is better to just run its course as it will be for a couple of days.  However, if the horse is not eating or drinking and feels not well and miserable then call a vet and medication could be prescribed or administered to make him more comfortable and be at ease.

Normally if a horse is sick and having a fever the veterinarian will most likely prescribe NSAIDs like Banamine (flunixin) and phenylbutazone are often given to bring down the fever.  This will make the horse eat and drink again.

Horse’s Body Temperature

The high temperature for a horse…

If the horse goes without eating or drinking it will have more problems.  Fevers can also be brought down by hosing or standing the horse in front of a fan or administering cooled fluids via an IV.

A horse with a high fever of 105 or higher may be prone to strangles, Potomac Horse fever, equine influenza or other infections.   Viral infections tend to produce higher fevers and bacterial infections.   Endotoxemia is another cause of fever.  So a horse with high fever will most definitely show other signs of illness that may pinpoint to a specific cause.  This is of course if the horse is really having a very high fever and goes on for days.

So owning a horse is a daunting task, but also a rewarding and enjoyable experience.  A horse whether used for work or for pleasure, or riding can be a wonderful pet.  But it is also a very big responsibility to look after and upkeep a horse, as it is very expensive to care for it.  Be sure you can give the horse a long term commitment which requires a lot of time and effort, not to mention a lot of expenses too.

Horses are great fun for both adults and children.  The domesticated horse has a lifespan of about 25 years.

As a horse owner, it is up to you to take care of it and make sure that it is provided with all the basic needs to keep it healthy and happy.  The basic requirements for a horse is an adequate and appropriate feed, water, shelter, space and exercise, company, health care, and treatment when it is sick.




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