What's a normal recovery?

Use this timetable to evaluate whether a horse's healing has stalled.
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A whole day has passed since your veterinarian was out to see your sick, feverish horse. You’ve been administering his medications on schedule, but he doesn’t seem to be improving. Is it time to call your veterinarian again? Maybe---but probably not.

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At the end of a farm call, your veterinarian will likely tell you when to expect to see signs of improvement. Sometimes a busy veterinarian might forget to mention this, however, so get into the habit of asking. And consider taking notes during veterinary visits so you can keep track of important details, which are easy to forget if you’re worried or emotionally stressed. Referring to your notes will help you decide if your horse’s recovery is taking too long.

As your horse improves, take his temperature twice a day. As a very general rule, any feverish condition is likely to improve within 48 hours after starting a medication. Recording your horse’s temperature may give you evidence that he is getting better even if other outward signs of illness remain unchanged---or it can provide an important indication that things are getting worse and you need to touch base with your veterinarian.

Call your veterinarian right away if your horse’s fever climbs more than a degree higher than it was at the time of the initial visit or if it stays persistently at 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Also call your veterinarian if your horse’s signs unexpectedly become more severe (some illnesses are known to get worse before they get better, and your veterinarian will alert you to this) or if any new signs develop. A horse who simply had a snotty nose when the veterinarian visited but is now coughing or stumbling may need to be seen again immediately.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #459, December 2015. 

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