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Many Equine Injuries Require Immediate Veterinarian Care, Experts Say You wake up one morning to find your best friend, Trigger, has an elevated pulse, respiration and temperature. What should you do? You might need equine first aid to the rescue. Horse care begins with preparing for and preventing injuries as well as knowing the proper procedures to follow when an emergency comes knocking on your barn door. You are the first line of defense for helping your horse when an emergency occurs. Therefore, be armed with the needed information. "Many owners have no idea who to contact for evening or night emergencies and that number should be right up there with 911," says Candise McKay, a large animal veterinary technician in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. "Discuss with your veterinarian whom to contact for after-hours emergencies." Nobody knows your horse better than you, McKay says. Owners should know what is normal for their horse and examine their animal daily observing any behavioral or physical changes, she adds. Just being observant can avoid a lot of things. One area that is particularly expressive is the horse's eyes. If they are dull or listless, you know your horse may not be feeling well. Other physical signs may also alert you to possible illness or injury. "Anytime your horse has an elevated pulse, respiration, and temperature, that must be considered an emergency," says McKay. "Call your veterinarian immediately." Normal resting heart rate for an adult horse is about 40 beats per minute, McKay explains. Foals, especially newborns, have extremely high respiration and heart rates compared to adults. Ask your veterinarian to teach you how to determine your horse's heart rate by using either a stethoscope or by taking your horse's pulse under the jaw. A horse owner's most powerful tool for determining horse health is a thermometer. Ask your veterinarian for instructions to properly take your horse's temperature. Normal temperature for a horse is between 99 and 101.5 degrees F. If its temperature is lower or higher than this, action needs to be taken quickly to alleviate the problem. Bandaging material is another important item that should be easily accessible in case of an emergency, McKay adds. If a horse lacerates a leg, wrapping and keeping the wound clean until a veterinarian can examine it will minimize infection. If your horse cuts a vein, the wound will bleed gradually. However, if the wound is pulsing blood, an artery may have been severed and pressure should be applied, McKay stresses. "Owners should be able to wrap a leg quickly and efficiently. Practice wrapping a leg because in the middle of an emergency is not the time to learn," says McKay. Profuse bleeding, large wounds and all eye problems are considered emergencies and a veterinarian should be called immediately. "The more accurate you can be in describing what's going on, the better your veterinarian can tell if you need to get your horse in right away," says McKay. McKay stresses that most of the time two situations occur. Either people don't know whom to call when an emergency happens, or they wait too long to call their veterinarian, making the situation worse. "Horses will never cease to surprise their owners with new ways they find to get into trouble," McKay believes. "Take the time to prevent and plan for emergency situations to ensure a long happy life for both you and your horse."
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