Readers Respond: Just Ain't Right

Nearly 2,000 readers of TheHorse.com responded to a poll asking, " What do you do when your horse isn't acting normal, but doesn't show specific clinical signs?"

results of poll on nonspecific clinical signs

Results were as follows: 
  • Monitor your horse's vital signs and call your veterinarian if he doesn't seem better soon: 78.73% (1,510)
  • Call your veterinarian immediately: 9.54% (183)
  • Ask a knowledgeable nonveterinarian for advice: 8.19% (157)
  • Other: 3.55% (68)

Poll respondents were asked, "What do you do?" All comments are listed below.

Results of weekly polls from TheHorse.com are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter. Published every week, this e-newsletter offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters using the form above or on our e-newsletter page.  

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  • I'm pretty good at telling when my 3 need a vet, I call & run the situation by her anyways.
  • how do i give my horse a shot
  • watch horse closely, ask knowlegable friends if having similar problem then call vet
  • Monitoring the Horse is Vital for good communications with the Vet if changes happen.
  • take temperature-if no fever--keep close eye on him next couple days--if not no change -call vet.
  • when your horse is shedding winter coat and not revealing summer coat
  • Keep a close eye on him and call the vet if needed.
  • take its temp
  • Monitor your horse's vital signs and call your veterinarian if he doesn't seem better soon
  • If his temp. and vital signs are normal - I would suspect ulcers - treat for that first
  • PRAY
  • Monitor attitude, behavor, vital signs, gut sounds, and food and water intake
  • my horse had a steak it was taken out but he it still lame
  • if mild, feed a pad or 2 of alfalfa-if extreme or this does't help-call a vet
  • check him all over, if nothing obvious, then give herbal ASA and monitor closely.
  • I keep an eye for any changes, and call the vet if in doubt..
  • Monitor my horse and ALSO check with a more knowledgeable person who has more experience.
  • Check resp.,hrt.,temp.,gums(CRT),feet,remove food,offer very warm water, depends on symptoms,
  • It depends. High temp? Stiff legged? Call vet NOW.
  • Also ask others who are knowledgeable
  • evaluate all symptoms again. Your horse will tell you what is wrong.
  • horse drawn carriage tours
  • I am a Vet Tech, I handle most of the problems myself.
  • I talk to everyone-non vet & vet and monitor everything. Call in vet if ness.
  • I don't take chances. I call the vet.
  • Observe activity - water @ feed consuption - nervousness - call vet after 24 hrs
  • take temperature and monitor vital signs and condition of the horse
  • watch for any changes
  • Take vitals & check gut. Call vet immediately if off at all. Otherwise, make regular appt. with vet
  • look around to see if there is something in their environment causing behaviour
  • ck capillary refill watch to see elimin OK may gv rescue remedy vet exclent at talkng thru most prob
  • if you know your horse youcan tell if its just a minror bug or temp change- i feel its better (if ye
  • Call my veternarian and tell her what is going and seek her advice
  • I really have't encountered this problem...it's always specific--b eing an experienced nurse helps
  • also get input from knowledgeable and experienced horse owners
  • Give current farm call rates, I monitor first and call the vet if no improvement.
  • In addition to keeping track of vitals, ask the horse to move on the ground and listen to its gut.
  • Depends on what the question considers acting normal as a guideline to the choices of answers availa
  • if they "ain't doing right" my vet wants us to call her sooner rather than later
  • keep written documentation about abnormalities
  • I will usually wait and see if anything happens. sometimes horses just have bad days
  • I am generally the non-vet knowledgable horse person other's ask
  • check vitals, treat as indicated for the commonly seen maladies.
  • If worried call vet, better safe than sorry! Avoid asking well meaning amateurs.
  • Talk it over with my horse trainer. Many times I was glad I did that instead calling in the vet.
  • Temperature and gut sound are what I check before calling.
  • Legs
  • Check P&R, temperature and notice if he's eating etc.
  • all three depending on the situation
  • I just keep monitoring closely. I can call our vet for advice.
  • i keep a log of all my horses' anyway, and note any changes, and just normal stuff.
  • Watch the horse extremely closely for any changes one way or the other
  • wish i had him long enough to know "normal"...lol
  • I monitor food/water intake and check the other horses. I also consider last two days' events.
  • Twice, vitamin B shots took care of the problem, once a non specific infection needed antibiotics
  • Vets for emergencies only.
  • I also consult my veterinary manual for what it could be
  • Give him a good physical exam to see if there are any obvious signs of injury or illness first,
  • monitor vs, capillary refill, ascultate gut, heart, lungs, observe, call vet if needed
  • Mt vet and I feel very comfortable (after 25 years) of talking on the phone to come out or wait
  • I monitor and call the vet then give a detailed list of symptoms
  • If still worried >24 hours I call knowledgeable friend who knows what my horses mean to me
  • watch, watch, watch!!!
  • watch for signs of infection such as dull eyes dull coat, check for any abnormalities in the stable
  • plus keeping a close eye on them
  • I am a vet.
  • Call vet-Things happen fast--I don't take chances.
  • Call my veterinarian that specializes in traditional chinese medicin and accupuncture for an exam.
  • Start with probios and pepto and a small amt of banamine
  • I monitor Ace, but I also have people who know him, look at him too-concensus then decision
  • she has more knowlage than i
  • My friends with a lifetime of experience have always known when to call the vet if I had doubts.
  • I also begin to watch for any changes in attitude or physical motions/changes.
  • Monitor for at the most a couple of hours b-4 calling vet depending on symptoms & prior history
  • Also ask a non vet horse friend
  • I also just watch them for any odd things
  • if he's eating, I just monitor. If not eating, then monitor and call vet if no improvement soon
  • Look into eyes,Noramlly I monitor vitals, and watch him close,check feed, water, anything new.
  • My horse was spending more time in the shed, he tested positve for lyme. Something to check .
  • monitor vitals and behavior and call vet if no improvement within 24-48 hours
  • Probably a combination: as someone else and monitor the horse closely, call vet as needed.
  • Study all possible factors; detemine likely causes if possible; then consult vet-he's a busy man!
  • wait and watch
  • Call my more experienced horsey friends, then monitor and possibly call the vet
  • Monitor your horse for changes, talk to a horse friend for advice
  • monitor, and possibly administer pain meds; massage; TLC
  • take vital signs and call the vet
  • I would call my vet for advice but not necessarily an immediate farm call.
  • I am a legal assistant
  • I monitor my horse closely, call my vet if I think anything isn't right to ask for advice/farm call.
  • I know my horse(s) real well.
  • Always call the vet. There is no excuse not to. I have seen horses die because their owners waited
  • I watch, listen, and monitor pulse, temp, and heart rate. I look for being off feed, depression.
  • the answer would depend on how "off" the horse is. I may call the vet immediately if necessary.
  • take temperature, listed for belly sounds, make sure he is pooping, check if gums are pink
  • I email my vet to give him a heads up on a potential problem. And watch my horse more closely.
  • I keep observing untill symptoms abate or get worse, then the vet gets a call
  • Monitor signs for a day or two and ask a friend. If no change or worsens then call a vet immediatel
  • watch for improvement over next day or so
  • Always know what is normal behavior, monitor continously what is even slightly different.
  • soon is the key word .... too long and you may not have a horse
  • Depends on how "abnormal" my horse is acting. I may call vet for advice real soon.
  • I took Sky in when he seemed "off", my vet was able to diagnose & successfully treat liver failure
  • Call vet to let him know there could be a potential problem, but I'm monitoring him.
  • Call immediately and run the symptoms by him, and do what he says.
  • take vitals and monitor for 12 hours, if goes down call vet
  • Take vital signs, call vet for further ideas of what to look for
  • watch him closely until something emerges to hint at what is wrong
  • Watch closely, write everything down, rely on my instincts, call vet if improvements aren't see.n
  • plus look for advice where ever I can find it.
  • If my horse isn't acting right, it is for a reason, so I'd rather get help sooner than later.
  • My vet is also a friend, so I have no qualms about calling her.
  • wait
  • I let her rest in a quiet stall.
  • We all have bad days. I monitor. If temp. or Heart rate go up, I call the Vet.
  • Our vet is readily avail. for advice & consultation via phone
  • Take vitals then call vet and explain I'm seeing. Together we make a plan, case by case.
  • back in Nov I had this problem. I did call the vet, but with no results. In Jan. vet paid attention
  • Early detection has saved several surgical cases for me when 'not right'. My vets listen!.
  • watch closely and talk to the vet to let them know I might need a barn call
  • Just keep an eye out for subtle things and stay in touch w the vet
  • Monitor vitals is of the utmost importance, if no improvement, then call a vet.
  • Most important thing is that a horse has a routine so its easier to notice when something isnt right
  • Do a complete once over, check vitals, have friend check, watch, call if no improvement in 24-48 hrs
  • I consider all possible reasons why my horse is "off" & make adjustments as needed.
  • I give them a time frame and watch closely
  • Panic
  • take temp, listen to gut sounds, take pulse and listen to heart rate
  • Depends on the horse and situation, I will ask a knowledgable horse friend for their opinion.
  • Call vet, discuss on telephone, monitor.
  • call vet & monitor vital signs-Are horses ever normal? :-)
  • Monitor clinical signs, time of year, changes in routine or nutrition, cycle, social changes, etc.
  • i will also walk thehorse in place of his regular exercise and closely monitor food/water intake
  • If vital signs show any abnormalities, I call the vet.
  • I take them streight to my vet no waiting around to see if they get worse.
  • Watch close and wait it out.
  • call, explain "problem" ask advice.if necessary, have vet out.usually overreaction on my part:)
  • Take temperature, pulse and watch closely
  • keep an eye on him- watch for any symptoms. pay special attention to him
  • Wait a bit, offer green grass to check appetite, take temp, observe movement
  • Wait a bit, offer green grass to check appetite, take temp, observe movement
  • Continue to observe for changes
  • Sounds funny but I talk to them. See how responsive they are.Its a good indication of how they feel.
  • If they are not acting normal, something is wrong, and it will show up soon.
  • observe him. if there is no improvement in a reasonable amount of time, will call the vet.0
  • CAught an early impaction colic
  • Look for trends and act accordingly, also check the rest of the horses for similar symptoms
  • take vitals, keep record, listen to "gut" instince. if necessary, call vet. Your know your horse b
  • my 24 arabian actshat old age
  • all depends on how my horse is acting as to how soon I call the vet out
  • watch him closely
  • Learn a lesson early on, now I would rather be safe than sorry!!
  • if she seems like shes colicing i put her in the trailer and go for a drive
  • Give my vet the symptoms and let him decide if he will see the horse
  • Don't like to jump & call vet, want him to know I only call when necessary!
  • notify the vet he'd rather know now if he might be making a call later on
  • Keep a close watch on gut sounds and vitals, be prepared to call vet.
  • At the clinic where I work we call it "therapeutic neglect".
  • Check for poisonous stuff they could have eaten, weather conditions, is it one or all horses, etc.
  • keep close eye on them and moniter water and feed intake, call vet if needed
  • Observe closely i.e. eating, drinking, activity; note vital signs, lethargy for 24 hrs.
  • Time off
  • check his drinking water for manure!
  • Monitor the horse's vital signs
  • Record symptoms,treat them and monitor closely.Call vet in no improvement.
  • Pull up a chair outside the stall with the portable phone in hand and watch, watch, watch....
  • Check thoroughly. Then watch to see if he gets better before calling vet.
  • Monitor the vital signs; my vet will want those anyway
  • Watch and see if he is better in 10 or so hours. If signs continue then I call the vet.
  • my horse suffers from anhydrosis. My first move is in the form of temperature regulation
  • I just watch them more carefully, and if any symptoms show, I call the vet for advice.
  • You know your horse better than anyone else, so you can better judge what's wrong
  • Monitor Vital Signs, Bowel Sounds, Activity, Stool & Urine Output, Food & Fluid Intake.
  • check food and poop
  • Monitor gut sounds, make sure horse is eating & drinking
  • Would wait a few hours, taking vital signs, then call the Vet if no better.
  • Confer with horse folk and monitor vitals & behavior
  • monitor horse through the night if neccesary, watch very carefully check everything possible
  • Monitor but call vet to see if visit is necessary.
  • In a remote area, vets don't want to pop out for every little ailment - self help out here is vital
  • My horse is my baby. If he is acting unusual, after about 3 days I do get the vet out!
  • Hand walk, monitor food & water intake & DO NOT RIDE
  • call and explain and make an appt. never wait for a flee animal to show to many signs.they hide them
  • ADR=ain't doing right-always call your vet right away!!
  • I monitor first, respect my vet, and NEVER cry wolf-when I call I NEED HELP and he knows it.
  • Thank God for my wonderful equine girlfriend, Mary! What would I ever do w/o you!!!
  • I would observe my horse and ask others for their opinions. Call vet if no improvement overnight
  • sometimes my vet can help me on the phone because noone knows my horses better than I
  • I would call the vet on third day even if vitals are normal.
  • Take temp, pulse, feel feet for heat or pulse, check sheath for swelling, check for choke, jog .
  • watch them very carefully to make sure they are eating and drinking normally.
  • Keep track of symptoms for a se
  • I will monitor my horse and wait to see if it is something that will take care of it's self first
  • I call my vet and explain what I see after I check vitals.
  • check vitals and call vet.
  • Ask a friend who knows my horse to validate my observation, and if so, call my vet immediately.
  • I keep my horses on my farm and handle them several times daily, I can usually detect minor changes
  • I'm a vet tech
  • Was told "If your draft looks at you funny, call your vet." By an old time draft man. Saved a life.
  • allow 24-48 hours before calling vet if no other changes & feed/water consumption remain normal
  • Run blood work, ie CBC and profiles.
  • I also monitor their actions, gaits and interactions with their buddies...also watch their buddies.
  • Monitor the horse for any change in their normal bahavior and treat as necessary
  • Monitor vital signs, bahavior differances, eating and drinking
  • getting to know my horse is the key
  • monitor behavior also- that's usually what tips off the "isn't acting right".
  • monitor - OR call Vet depending on how abnormal the horse is behaving.
  • converse with the horse through animal communicator
  • Pay close attention to the details
  • Try and do some research and monitor, if no change call vet
  • Mostly depends on what she doing. If she appears ill or injured then the vet is the first to know!
  • I also email my friend that is a vet tech w/ the USDA for advice, moniter feeding habits and change
  • Check feed and water, feet, soreness from riding or some other cause first.
  • I watch them if this happens. Don't panick.
  • Have the horse talked to by an animal communicator
  • We deal with a lot of rescue horses and find that they are not always sick. We watch them very close
  • Elevated/depressed vital signs will tell you if there's something wrong.
  • And sometimes it goes away, and sometimes it doesn't.
  • If it's at all "cold like" I'll boost with EsterC
  • treat with doxycycline and anti ulcer meds
  • ook at his environment, weather, and monitor Vital Signs and wait if no acute distress noted
  • I monitor both vital signs and behavior and consult my vet if I feel it isn't getting better.
  • Monitor vital signs, bahavior differances, eating and drinking consumption. Check for any injuries.
  • just watch him
  • my mare and I've been together so long I can see when something is wrong from across the pasture

About the Author

Erin Ryder

Erin Ryder is a former news editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.

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