Equine dehydration is more common in the summer, but it can happen any time. Hard work in hot, humid weather is the most common cause, but a sedentary horse in a hot stall or without access to drinkable water (think frozen water buckets or dirty stock tanks) can become dehydrated, too.
Five Signs Of Horse Dehydration:
- The pinch test: Pull out a pinch of skin on your horse’s neck or shoulder. Notice how quickly it springs back. If it springs right back into place, he’s not very dehydrated. If he is moderately dehydrated, the skin will stay elevated a few seconds after you pull it out. The more dehydrated your horse is, the longer the skin will stay elevated.
- Check his gums and mucous membranes inside the nose and mouth. Dry, red mucous membranes in the nose and mouth are a sign of dehydration. Also, look for dark red gums.
- Check your horse’s eyes. Are they dull and glazed? Are the eyelids wrinkled?
- Perform a capillary refill test: Press your finger into your horse’s gum just above his front teeth. The spot will turn white. Normal color should return within one to four seconds. In a stressed and dehydrated horse, the spot will stay pale and bloodless longer. The more dehydrated the horse, the slower the capillary refill time.
- Other signs include thick, lathered sweat, shallow panting, and an increased temperature (over 102F) that doesn’t decrease after exertion.
To learn how to perform these important horse care chores, visit ThePracticalHorse.com. You’ll find simple, clear video presentations that explain how to conduct pinch test and capillary refill tests and take your horse’s temperature safely.
If you suspect that your horse is dehydrated, take the following steps.
- If dehydration is heat-related, move the horse into the shade. Cool him with a fan if possible.
- Moderate dehydration can be reversed by allowing your horse unlimited access to water and electrolyte supplementation.
- Severe and dangerous dehydration must be treated by a veterinarian. Contact your vet at once if your horse is severely dehydrated.
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