Emergency First Aid

  • Always be prepared
  • Prevention is key
  • Stay calm
  • If you think about calling the veterinarian, you probably should

Assessing an Emergency: Vital Signs

Gum Color

Indicative of circulatory health
Healthy: pink and moist
Call the vet if pale pink or white, bright red, purple or yellow

Capillary Refill Time

Time for color to return to gums blanched with fingertip pressure
Normal time is < 2 seconds
Prolonged time is indicative of compromised circulation

Heart Rate

Increases with pain, circulatory system disturbance or exercise
Measure heart rate with stethoscope right behind left elbow
Each “lub-dup” is one beat
Take pulse rate at lower jaw bone
Adult: 30-40 beats/min
Foal: Up to 120 beats/min
Yearling: Up to 60 beats/min

Respiratory Rate

Increases with pain, exercise and in some disease states
Normal rate is 10-14 breaths per minute
Watch the belly as it moves in and out
Count each set of inhalation and exhalation as one breath

Body Temperature

Varies with weather, exercise and stress
Normal temperature is 99-101 F
Temperature should be taken per rectum
Use lubrication such as petroleum jelly
Leave mercury thermometers in for 3 minutes
Digital thermometers work well

Gastrointestinal Sounds

Using a stethoscope, listen to the top and bottom of the abdomen on both sides
No gut motility is worse than hearing lots of gurgling


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