Unusual behavior includes any changes in personality, temperament, or activities. Typical signs can include yawning, aggression (including unprovoked biting or kicking), loss of affinity for a foal, compulsive walking (usually in a circle), self-mutilation, head-pressing, timidity, and loss of learned behaviors and skills.
Aimlessly wandering is a sign that the horse might have a neurological problem or a vision problem.
A depressed horse is quieter than normal, dull and/or less responsive and disinterested in the environment. They may have their ears pulled back or down and do not move readily to surrounding noise. May have lowered head carriage.
Restlessness in a horse is apparent as a horse that does not stand quietly but moves, apparently aimlessly, and appears agitated. Movements may be jerky with wide excursions of the head.
Horse is submerging their entire head in the water trough.
Flank watching is when a horse glances or bites at its side or flank and/or kicks in the direction of their abdomen.
Presents itself as bruises or swelling on or under the skin, excessive bleeding from a wound, blotchy hemorrhages, or nose bleeds
Typical noisy breathing sounds include crackles, wheezes, and pleural friction sounds.
Breathing that is gasping, jerky, shallow, or has excessively large thoracic excursions, flexion of head and neck, and.or tracheal airflow that is absent, reduced, or increased.
The normal respiratory (breathing) rate in adult horses is 8-16 breaths/min with minimal chest or abdominal wall movement. Ponies have a respiratory rate up to 20 breaths/min and for foals its 20 to 40 breaths/min. Only slight nostril movements should be present.
Colic signs can include rolling, lack of normal gut noises, attempting to lay down, pawing, flank watching, pacing, loss of appetite, grinding teeth, kicking at abdomen, lying down frequently, depression, restlessness, weight shifting, stretching, and/or collapse.
Collapse is defined in horses as loss of motor function without loss of consciousness.
Horse is more vocal then normal or has a marked difference in sound of their whinny.
Coughs can be chronic or acute, induced by exercise or brought on by dust or allergies. Coughs that are deep, soft and productive (the horse swallows after coughing) generally indicates that the lower airway is involved. Upper airway infections are usually associated with coughs that are harsh, hacking, dry and non-productive.
Cranial nerve signs in horses include observation of any of the following signs: facial paralysis, drooping eyelid, abnormal eyeball position, tongue paralysis, difficulty swallowing, deafness, drooping ear, unresponsive pupils, blindness, difficulty chewing, loss of balance.
Horse doesn't show interest in food or is not finishing all of the grain.
Diarrhea is the abnormally frequent discharge of soft or liquid feces.
Fecal soiling (fresh or dry) is usually apparent under the tail and along the medial sides of thighs and hocks.
Horse is having a difficult time swallowing food or water and/or is having trouble eating. A sign of this is observing the horse eat and seeing more feed come out of his mouth and on the ground then in.
Horse's stride length has shortened; short and choppy
The horse is unable to do physical exercise at the level or for the duration that would be normally expected of them.
The horse is not able to easily bend their neck.
Rushing, resistance or refusal of jumps is a possible sign of sub clinical pain.
Horse has trouble picking up a particular lead.
The horse shys away, elevates its head, or backs away when their ears are touched or upon removal or putting on a bridle or halter.
Edema is the medical term for swelling caused by a collection of fluid in the spaces that surround the body's tissues and organs. Edema can occur nearly anywhere in the body. Edema also goes by different names, depending on its location on the body.
Underside of belly - ventral edema
Lower legs - peripheral edema or 'stocking up'.
Chest - pulmonary edema, pleural effusion
Lymph nodes are small organs of the immune system that contain cells that fight infections, neutralize toxins, and produce antibodies. They are located in the throat latch area of the horse.
Bulging eyes occurs when the size of the eye is normal, but its position has changed. Presents itself as third eyelid protrusion, abnormal forward position of eye, and eyelid swelling and/or bruising.
An increased opacity of the eye, described as a film covering the eye or as an increased cloudiness within eye.
Clear watery secretion in one or both eyes that is serous, mucopurulent or purulent.
Horse's pupil's are dilated
Signs of possible impaired vision in horses are instances where the horse is observed bumping into obstacles, change in temperament or herd behavior, reluctance to ambulate freely in reduced lighting, under saddle the horse might frequently shy away or balk, prolonged neighing and spooking, freezing in place, rapid circling episodes,
Reddening of the eye
Horse is frequently squinting or refusing to open eyelid.
Eyes appear sunken in; tight skin
Abnormal fat distribution is fat that is located in non-typical areas of the horse's body. These areas include crest of the neck, above the eyes, sheath/udder, and above the tailhead.
The horse is producing bloody or red colored feces.
Horse has suddenly died without a known prior cause.
Darkened gum color can include blue to purple to dark brown.
The mucous membranes (gums, mouth) of the horse are a significant and important indicator of the circulatory status of the horse and may show significant changes in color and appearance in many other diseases conditions. A horse's mucous membranes should be pink and moist. Abnormal coloring include bright red, dark red, blue, yellow or pale/white.
Jaundice, or iterus is the yellowing of the mucous membranes (gums) of the horse. Mucous membranes include the gums and mouth, inside of the nostrils, eyes and eyelids. Jaundice occurs when there is excess bile products in the blood, and indicative that there is something wrong with the horse's liver.
Tiny insects, parasites or eggs are visible on the horse or in their feces.
Loss of variable size and number of patches of hair from the horse's coat.
Hirsutism is a hair coat that is unusually long, thick and curly. Horse may also display delayed or incomplete shedding or failure to shed following the winter months.
Head shaking is an abnormal behavior occurring when a horse shakes its head in the absence of an obvious reason, and with such frequency and violence that it becomes difficult or dangerous to ride or appears to be distressed.
Head tilt is a condition in which the head is kept tipped to one side; can be caused by many different diseases, including inner ear infection and neurological problems.
Horses' have a history of chronic or recurring colic.
A black discharge is apparent on the bottom of the horse's hooves.
A horse's digital pulse is felt in the digital arteries on the back of the fetlock. A bounding digital pulse is a sign of hoof pain.
Horse's hooves are brittle; noticeable flaking off or separation of hoof material.
Hoof testers are squeezed on the sole and hoof capsule to determine if there are any sensitive areas present. Hoof tester pressure on normal hoof or sole does not result in a significant withdrawal response. If a sensitive area is found, the hoof tester pressure should be repeated to verify the finding, then pressure should be maintained for 20 to 30 seconds and the horse should be trotted off to determine if pressure on the sensitive area causes an exacerbation of the lameness.
Excessive range of movement or overshooting of a target is referred to as hypermetria. It is more evident when the movement is made in a trot or a canter, as opposed to a walk. The horse may appear to have a lack of direction, high stepping gait, overreaching with excessive joint movement, or involuntary leg movements.
Ataxia is incoordination of the horse's limbs. Typical features include crossing of limbs, stepping on opposite foot, abnormal or irregular foot placement, or circumduction of the outside limb when turning or circling. Signs will be made more apparent if the horse is viewed on a slope or their head is raised.
Patches of hair loss above the tail is a sign of the horse has been itching
Gut sounds coming from the horse's abdomen are indicative of a normal, active digestive system. When there is no sound, or weak sounds from the abdomen, then this is indicative of a serious gastrointestinal problem usually associated with colic.
Lameness is when the horse does not travel in a regular manner on all four feet. The degree of lameness varies depending on the observer, the pain tolerance level of the horse, the type of footing, speed of gait, path of travel (straight or in a circle).
Signs of sudden and severe lameness in horses occurs when the horse is reluctant to move, holding a leg off the ground, is lying down unable to stand up, and/or can barely walk without appearing in grave pain.
A lethargic horse is drowsy but partially awakens to stimulation. There is slight drooping of the ears and eyelids, and reduced voluntary activity. The horse appears to have a somewhat blank facial expression.
The horse's extremities feel cold to touch
Foal will not nurse from the mare.
Excessive salivation, sometimes described as slobbering or hypersalivation is medically termed as ptyalism. It can occur as a reaction in normal horses during riding with a bit, when chewing certain foods, oral irritation or when excited.
An unpleasant odor from the mouth.
Weakness in horses is presented as
poor ability to initiate a gait, to maintain a posture, to support weight of the body or its parts, and to resist gravity.
Horse is having muscle tremors.
Muscle wasting, or muscle atrophy, is unexplained muscle loss, which can occur on one or both sides of the horse's body. The amount of muscle loss, location, and speed in which it occurred should all be noted.
Nasal discharge can be unilateral (coming from one nostril) or bilateral (coming from both nostrils). The appearance of the discharge can be clear (serous), gray and cloudy (mucoid), thick and green (purulent), bloody, or can contain food material.
Return of food through the horse's nostrils.
The state of being covered with petechiae (spotted areas of blood).
Horse is extending head and neck outward or carriage of head is lower than normal.
The jugular vein is found on the lower part of the horses neck. It should be examined with the horse's head in a normal, erect position.
Signs to look for are localized firmness and cording of the vein.
A nosebleed is loss of blood from the tissue lining the nose. Be sure to note whether the bleeding is coming from both nostrils or just one.
Mouth ulcers are sores found inside of the horse's mouth, characterized by erosion and loss of surface tissue.
Immediate avoidance reaction to palpation of a particular area.
Paralysis is partial or complete loss of motor function or sensation in part of the horse's body. It can occur in one local area or can be widespread.
Pawing is when a horse is repeatedly scraping the ground with a forelimb. It is a sign of possible abdominal pain in horses.
Reluctance or inability to move is a sign of severe lameness in horses.
A horse that buckles the legs (crouches) and looks like it will lay down, but does not, or lays down but gets up immediately.
Rolling or attempting to roll is a possible sign of abdominal pain in horses.
Horse appears to be having a seizure---a short pre-ictal phase with restlessness and distraction, prior to generalized seizure activity where the horse is recumbent and shows alternating rigidity/thrashing/paddling behavior.
Seizures can be generalized or focal (localized). Generalized seizures involve involuntary recumbency and loss of consciousness with possible blindness and depression.
Focal seizures might appear as muscle fasciculations and tremors in the face or limbs, compulsive circling, self-mutilation of a particular area, or abnormal movements of the jaws and tongue which appears as excessive chewing.
Horses tries to bite when girth is getting tightened.
Crusting is the result of the drying of plasma or exudate onto the horse's skin.
The horse's skin is dry or flaky in parts.
Hives are small bumps on the skin. The hair may stand up over these swellings and sometimes they itch.
A skin lesion is any abnormality in the horse's skin tissue. They can be caused by disease or trauma and consist of contusions abrasions, lacerations, papules, pustules, vesicles, blisters, wheals, ulcers, plaques, crests, crusts, scabs and erosions.
Lichenification of the skin refers to the thickening of the epidermis, often the secondary result from chronic rubbing of the area.
Horse's skin appears unusually loose .
Multiple or solitary firm lumps and/or bumps.
oozing discharge from the skin is apparent.
Reddening of the skin
A base wide stance is when a horse is standing with their front legs wide apart.
Dog-sitting is a sign of weakness. The horse is seen sitting upright like a dog in the pasture.
A horse is standing parked out when they have their front feet in front of them. It is a sign of laminitis in horses.
Recumbency is laying down more frequently or for longer periods of time. It can sometimes be a sign that there is something wrong with the horse.
A tucked up stance occurs when a horse is standing with all 4 legs held close together, almost like they are trying to stand on a circus ball.
Stiffness is usually easiest to see in the front limbs. It appears as a tin solider gait and is most easily detected when the horse is backing up or on a slope with their head raised. A stiff horse is awkward, clumsy and slow to respond to its rider, even if he is willing.
Stretching out is when the horse is most commonly, taking a stance as a male horse would to urinate, but not urinating. If a male horse, look for evidence of blood staining of the urethra---caused by persistent bleeding from the urethra and frequent attempts to urinate.
Stumbling can be a sign of weakness.
Horse is excessively sweating all over body, for no apparent reason. An example of an apparent reason would be that they have a heavy blanket on when it is a warm day.
There is a swelling or enlargement
Horse is grinding their teeth or making continuous chewing movements.
Toe dragging is sometimes apparent from examination of the wear of the toe of the horse's feet.
Twitching in horses is characterized by painless, fine movements of a small area of muscle, caused by minor, involuntary muscle contractions.
Mare had an unexpected aborted birth.
Loss of bladder control-the involuntary release of urine in horses.
Equine urine is normally straw colored, however the color and consistency can vary widely due to the amount of mucus in the urine. When a horse's urine is discolored, it can be caused by administering certain medicines (most commonly rifampicin and phenazopyridine), contamination with red blood cells, hemoglobin, myoglobin, oxidizing agents normally found in urine, and plant-derived pigments.
The continuous or intermittent dribbling of small amounts of urine; usually associated with a dysfunction of the bladder. In geldings and stallions, it is usually associated with the appearance of urine-scalded hind limbs with extensive preputial inflammation. In mares, it is usually associated with perineal excoriation and crystallization of urine in the hair of the hind limbs and tail.
Urinary incontinence is involuntary urination. Horses generally urinate 7-11 times daily. Foals urinate hourly and typically upon standing.
The average horse has a heart rate of 35-42 beats/min at rest. Any heart rate lower than normal is considered decreased.
Slight increase in body temperature over 101°F (38.3°C) is usually associated with pain. However temperatures in excess of 101.5°F (38.6°C) suggests a systemic disease.
An elevated or rapid heart rate is referred to as tachycardia. A normal heart rate for an adult horse at rest is 28-44 beats/min. For a foal it is 80-100 beats/min. Any heart rate above normal is considered a rapid heart rate.
A lowered body temperature occurs when a horse's body temperature is below 99.5°F (37.5ºC). If coupled with a rapid weak pulse, is usually indicative of the development of shock.
Weight loss in horses is failure to gain weight. The most common reasons for weight loss in horses are dental disorders, poor nutrition, or parasitism. Weight loss can also be caused by a chronic infection or inflammation, organ failure, endocrine diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, and neuromuscular diseases.
A horse is yawning frequently when they appear to take repeated deep long inhalations with mouth widely open and jaws either directly opposed or moved from side to side.