Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Down with Limbs Tipped Up, Cast

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 signs of colic, along with this sign.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • If you are unable to get the horse to its feet.
  • When the horse is back on its feet, it still seems not quite right.

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

  • Once the problem is resolved it is still wise to evaluate the horse's general health and management to ensure there is no underlying problem.

A “cast” horse is down on their side, with their limbs positioned against a wall or fence in such a way that they cannot rise. They are stuck. Horses should not remain cast for any significant length of time. A horse’s great weight can cause damage to skin and muscle. Blood pressure and respiration in down horses is poor.

A cast horse might be suffering from other problems too. The question is always why the horse became cast in the first place. While sometimes it is just an accident, often there is an underlying reason. Often, abdominal pain (colic) causes a horse to lay down repeatedly, finally getting cast. Sometimes they scramble causing additional trauma and they become exhausted.

WHAT TO DO

If you are able to safely help your horse to stand, do so. If possible assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and immediately share your findings and concerns with your vet. If you cannot safely help your horse rise, simply comfort them and keep them calm until your vet arrives. Be sure to stay behind any down horse’s back and away from the limbs.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

While your vet may be an expert at getting down horses up, they also assess the situation and the horse to see if there are underlying reasons for their being cast in the first place. They use physical examination, along with the response of the horse to being righted, to determine further diagnostics or necessary treatment.

What Not To Do

Do not allow your horse remain cast for long without either helping them or calling a vet.

Do not assume that a horse is "just cast". Always question whether there might be underlying colic or other reason for being cast.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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