Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Attacked by Dogs or other Predator (Foal or Adult)

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

    In my experience, domestic and feral dog attacks on horses are a much greater problem than other predators in or near suburban areas. Dog attacks on foals are common, but rare in larger adult horses. In areas in which wolves, big cats and large bears range, they may occasionally prey on foals, very rarely larger horses. Coyotes rarely attack foals or miniature breeds, and not full-sized healthy horses.

    I have lived in and raised livestock in black bear country all my life and I have never seen credible evidence of a black bear attacking a horse. Mountain lions occasionally attack young growing horses, very rarely adults.

    If a foal or adult horse has been savaged by a predator and is still alive, they usually have large and severely contaminated wounds, often around the neck and backline. Injuries can also result from falling or collision with an object as a horse panics, rather than from direct injury by a predator.

    Foals can quickly go into septic shock and die without immediate veterinary attention. Adult horses are more likely to survive, but may also require immediate veterinary attention.

    WHAT TO DO

    If your horse has been attacked by a predator, call your vet immediately. Until your vet arrives, you may gently irrigate large contaminated wounds with warm water and dilute antiseptic or saline. If you have medications like antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, ask your vet if you may administer them before they arrive. Keep your horse warm under blankets if they are trembling.

    WHAT YOUR VET DOES

    Your vet will conduct a thorough physical exam to determine the extent and severity of the injuries. The most important factor in determining whether a horse will survive is the nature and severity of their injuries and whether important anatomical structures are involved. For a foal, whether they maintain a strong attitude and continue to nurse is important.

    What Not To Do

    Do not use strong disinfectants on the wounds without veterinary supervision. Do not attempt to treat your horse if it seems to be causing them excessive stress. In this case, wait until your vet arrives and simply try to keep them comfortable and warm.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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