Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Skin Feels Warm or Hot, Heat in a Local Area

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you have other questions or concerns about the horse.
  • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • If you feel that increased heat may be associated with an injury or poor healing.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If you have other questions or concerns about the horse.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

You are assessing an area that seems mildly swollen or otherwise appears abnormal, and you notice heat in the skin of the area. What does this mean?

Heat develops when there is increased blood flow to an area. This happens for a variety of reasons but most commonly occurs due to injury, which results in inflammation. Part of inflammation is increased blood flow to the area. Expect heat to persist in an injured area throughout the period of healing.

Heat in an otherwise seemingly normal area of skin, and without other abnormal findings, is of questionable value.

WHAT TO DO

To determine significance of the finding, first assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), and search for other signs of injury like pain response to pressure, swelling of the area, or lameness. If you notice heat on the skin of a leg, always assess lameness at the walk. See the related records and learn those skills.

Always keep sun and ambient temperature in mind when trying to evaluate heat of the skin as these factors affect it. Keep in mind that clipped skin (surgical sites) will always feel warmer than adjacent haired areas.

It is good practice to learn to feel the temperature of your horse’s skin and feet. I was taught that the back of the knuckles is the most sensitive part of the hand for assessing temperature differences. If you are having difficulty determining whether any area is hot, compare it to the same location on the opposite side of the horse.

Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will try to identify the underlying cause by taking a history and performing a physical exam. They may then recommend additional diagnostics. Infrared Thermography is a diagnostic modality that looks at skin temperature as an indicator of injury. It has value but is not without confusing factors.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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