Knowing the warning signs will help prepare you for an equine emergency. This can help prevent significant illnesses or injuries from escalating. Ensure that you know when the signs indicate an emergency and when they can wait until the morning.
Diarrhea can be as simple as the horse adjusting to a new food, but severe diarrhea can cause extreme dehydration. If it continues after multiple bowel movements (three or more), you should check the horse’s vital signs. Intestinal problems are often contagious, so you should quarantine the horse to prevent it from spreading.
If the horse’s vital signs are normal, you can probably wait until regular office hours to call. Ensure that you keep an eye on the horse and make certain it drinks enough water. Consider soaking the horse’s food in water, as well. If the vital signs are abnormal, you should call your vet immediately.
Eyesight is extremely important for your horse, so eye issues are generally considered emergency situations. Keep an eye out for signs of tearing, swelling, or reddening in the eyes. Examine the eye for foreign material and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
If your horse has a fever, monitor a few other signs to determine the seriousness of the situation. If the horse is simply lethargic with no other adverse signs, you can wait to contact the vet until regular office hours. However, if the fever is accompanied by signs of colic, diarrhea, or neurologic issues, you should contact your vet immediately.
Neurologic signs are always considered an emergency. A horse displaying these symptoms can be extremely dangerous to be around. Neurological conditions may be contagious, so quarantining will be necessary. Signs of neurological illness include:
- Loss of balance
- Droopy lips, eyelids, or ears
- Severe depression characterized by a lack of reaction to normal stimulation
- Acute onset blindness
Colic is an umbrella term that encompasses abdominal pain in horses. It can be caused by very simple things, such as built up gas, or more severe conditions, like twisted intestines. Because it envelops such a broad range of scenarios, you should contact your vet to determine the seriousness.
If a horse suddenly shows signs of lameness, you should contact your vet immediately. If it seems like a leg can’t support its weight, it is generally in an extreme amount of pain. Do not force the horse to move, even if you are trying to examine it.
If you’re ever unsure whether a situation is an emergency or not, it is always better to err on the side of caution. It is preferable to catch every small problem than to miss a large one. Keep your horse safe and healthy!