How to Know When to Call the Veterinarian for Your Horse

Mature Horses

Symptoms Requiring Veterinary Treatment

Mature horses typically have very few issues. However, accidents, infections, and injuries do happen. The main symptoms you need to watch for at all stages of life are:

• Fever

• Green nasal discharge

• Cough

• Difficulty breathing

• Sweat

• Heat stress

• Seizures

• Obvious wounds or injuries

• Stumbling or inability to walk or get up

• Swelling

• Lameness

• Difficulty eating

• Diarrhea

• Blood in urine

• Cloudy eye

• Depression


Laboring mares are a different situation entirely. While foaling is a natural process for most mares, there are instances where human intervention is necessary. Watch for a mare not progressing with labor after the water breaks.


Older and Younger Horses

We should treat younger and older horses differently than healthy, mature horses. Some symptoms can point to more significant issues with horses of these ages. Moreover, seemingly minor signs for mature horses can bring more severe consequences for foals and elderly horses.


Elderly Horses

Any item from our list of mature horse symptoms also applies to elderly horses. Additionally, you should monitor elderly horses for:


• Weight loss

• Difficulty chewing or not eating

• Dropping food

• Excessive drinking and urination

• Lameness

• Not shedding the winter coat in spring



How to Know When to Call the Veterinarian for Your HorseIn nature, foals are born with little issue. On the other hand, there is no human around to intervene if a problem arises. Human intervention in extreme situations can save the lives of both mare and foal. 


Not only should you monitor the foal, but you should monitor the mare as well. In the early days, the foal depends on the mare. Make sure that the mare is producing milk to feed the foal.


Many symptoms are concerning with foals. Almost all the signs are associated with life functions like eating, voiding, and standing.


Symptoms to watch for with your foal are:

• Not nursing

• Colic

• Milk leaking out the nose

• Straining to void urine or feces

• Persistent diarrhea

• Rapid breath or difficulty breathing

• Fever

• Inability to stand

• Lameness

• Odd behavior

• Seizures

• Cloudy eyes/squinting


New Horses

It is difficult to know your new horse’s complete medical history. Even when purchased from a reputable breeder or professional, it is best to have your veterinarian visit and exam your new horse. After a complete examination, your veterinarian can inform you of the health and soundness of your horse.


Regular Visits

Like humans, your horse should receive yearly visits from their veterinarian. Biannual visits are recommended for particularly young and old horses in the spring and fall. Your veterinarian will want to examine any new foal within 24 hours of birth.


With your veterinarian, set schedules for vaccinations and deworming. At this time, discuss any questions you may have about your horse. Additionally, your horse should have a dental exam every year. 

If your horse’s behavior or physical symptoms concern you, it is always best to call your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will perform a phone assessment and determine if they need to visit your horse for further examination.


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