Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Cannot Seem to Get Up, Lying Down, Seems Aware

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

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

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

  • If you notice other signs of abdominal pain (colic).
  • If you are unable to get the horse to its feet.
  • You are able to get the horse to its feet but it still is not acting normal.

Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

  • If the horse gets up and acts normal but you still have some questions.

Horses that are down and alert may be in abdominal pain (colic), or suffering from any number of other illnesses. A cast horse is in a position where its limbs are tipped up or there is insufficient room for them to roll onto their chest.

WHAT TO DO

I usually tell my clients to try to get the horse up. First, be sure the horse is in a position in which it can get up, i.e. it’s limbs are not tipped up on a wall or fence, and it has room to roll to its chest. Try once or twice to “spook the horse up”. See the related skill for details: “Get a Down Horse Up or Roll a Down Horse”.

Several important questions are answered by this exercise:

– Can the horse physically rise to its feet?

– What takes place when it tries to rise?

– If it gets to its feet, what does it do next?

– Does it stand quietly?

– Does it only walk with difficulty?

– Does it show lameness?

– Does it show other signs of abdominal pain?

– Does it try to lie down again quickly?

I also usually advise my clients to assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), working from the back of the horse to stay out of the way of their limbs if the horse flails or attempts to rise. Pay particular attention to the alertness of eyes (menace response), rectal temperature, heart rate, gum color and capillary refill time. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet assesses the horse’s general health and then tries to get the horse to rise up. By assessing that effort, your vet begins to get an idea of the nature of the condition. They may start emergency treatment right away in the down horse, depending upon their assessment.

NOTE: This observation is associated with Rabies, which is very rare in horses but does occur. As a precaution, wear gloves when handling a horse exhibiting this sign.

POSSIBLE TREATMENTS or TherapiesTo Lessen or Resolve the Sign

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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