Did you know about 60% of your horse is water? That includes 85% of his brain, 75% of muscles, even 30% of bone. A horse's good health depends on his body’s ability to adapt to changes in environment and feed to keep fluid levels balanced.
Many horses won't drink enough water without encouragement, so chances are your horse is at least mildly dehydrated. If left unchecked, dehydration can lead to colic and serious health issues. Use these 5 tips to check for early signs of dehydration in horses.
Taking your horse's pulse can give you a good indication of how he's feeling. The easiest place to take a pulse is from the facial artery on the bottom side of the jaw, in the shallow groove beneath the last cheek tooth.1 The normal horse heart rate is 32-36 beats per minute, though some horses vary between 24 to 40 beats per minute.
While your horse is resting, try to count his pulse for 60 seconds. If he’s restless, try 30 seconds and double the amount. (Avoid the common advice to check for 10 seconds and multiply by 6; the results will be less accurate.) A resting heart rate higher than 60 could be an indication of dehydration.
Respiration can be taken by watching your horse’s chest move in and out or by feeling the air coming from his nostrils.1
A typical breathing rate is between 8 and 12 breaths per minute. A dehydrated horse takes more frequent, shallow breaths as his body tries to shuttle resources from one system to another.
Another sign of a dehydration in horses is a long capillary refill time. Check your horse's capillary refill by pressing gently on the gum near his upper teeth. The skin will turn white as you press, but the pink color should return quickly when you release.
Normal refill time is about 2 seconds.1 If it takes longer for the color to return, you’ve probably got a dehydrated horse.
A horse's skin loses elasticity when fluids or electrolytes are depleted 2. An easy way to check for dehydration is to fold a section of skin along your horse's back or lower chest.
The skin of a hydrated horse springs back into place quickly. If the skin stays up like a ridge or returns slowly to its regular shape, you should take action to hydrate your horse.
A hydrated horse’s eyes and gums should appear moist and shiny. If the gums are excessively dry or red, or if his eyes seem dry or dull,2 that's a good indication your horse is dehydrated and using up available fluids for core activities.
Want to learn more about keeping your horse hydrated with salt blocks and electrolytes? Read these 4 Common Myths Regarding Dehydration in Horses.
When it comes to your horse’s health, we believe nature has it right. We provide natural, effective equine products that will help your horse get back to optimal health. Redmond products are mined and made in America.
They say you can lead a horse to water but you...
By Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D.