If you own a horse, it’s important to know how to take your horse’s vitals signs. Typically we are talking about taking their Pulse, taking their Temperature and taking their Respiration. Generally when you call your vet expressing a concern in your horses health, the vet may ask you what your horse’s vital signs are. With a little practice, you will be able to take your horse’s vital signs and know if they are with in the the normal range. In today’s post I am just going to cover taking the Pulse. It’s a good idea to take your horse’s pulse rate when they are healthy, so you can have a good base line to go on. It’s also worth noting that some breeds can have slightly different pulse rates than the norm.
Taking your horses Pulse rate
There are 3 places in which you can locate the pulse.
- Facial Artery, this artery runs across the lower edge of the jawbone.
- Radial Artery, on the back inside of the knee.
- Digital Artery, just below the fetlock towards the inside.
Normal Pulse rate
Adult horses heart rate is generally between 30-40 beats per minute (bpm). While a young foal, say 2-4 weeks of age will have a higher bpm of 70-90. Exercise, Physical Condition, Outside temperature, Sickness, Excitement and Age can definitely influence the pulse rate. A higher than normal pulse rate in the absence of excitement or exercise can indicate dehydration, colic, shock, infection or even septicemia. A lower than normal pulse rate can suggest low body temperature, heart disease or even pressure on the brain.
Taking the pulse via the Facial Artery
- Stand slightly to the side of the horse’s head and cup your hand with your first two fingers along the inside of the jawbone, just below the heavy muscles of the cheek. Be careful not to use your thumb, or you will feel your own pulse!
- Feel along the inside of the jawbone until you consistently feel the pulse beat.
- Looking at your watch, count the beats for 30 seconds, then double the count to give you bpm.
Taking the pulse via the Radial Artery
- Crouch facing the limb, then place your hand around the back of the knee with the pads of your fingers pressing on the radial artery. Taking the pulse here is similar to taking your pulse at the wrist.
- Once your fingers locate the strong, consistent pulse beat, count the beats for 30 seconds and double the count for the bpm.
Taking the pulse on the digital artery
The digital artery pulse becomes more prominent when there is a lameness or pain in the foot. Personally I can never find the digital pulse, unless the horse has a RAGING pulse, and then it’s usually because of an abscess.
- Crouch facing the limb and locate the digital artery with the pads of your fingers. The pulse may be best found on the inside or outside branch of the digital artery.
- Place the pads of your fingers on the artery and count the beats for 30 seconds, then double for bpm.
Check out future blog posts concerning Respiration and Temperature And always remember, if you are ever in doubt–CALL YOUR VET.