WHEN TO WORRY ABOUT FEVER

EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

One of the first things to do when you sus­pect your horse isn’t feel­ing well is take his tem­per­a­ture. An el­e­vated body tem­per­a­ture, com­monly called a “fever,” can be an early in­di­ca­tion of vi­ral or bac­te­rial in­fec­tion.

Nor­mal body tem­per­a­ture for horses can range be­tween 98 and 100 de­grees. Some horses nat­u­rally run hot­ter than oth­ers, but in­di­vid­u­als tend to be fairly con­sis­tent day to day. That’s why it’s help­ful to get a base­line for your horse’s tem­per­a­ture when he is healthy. If you don’t al­ready, make it a habit to take his tem­per­a­ture once or twice a month, just to keep tabs on his nor­mal read­ings.

A slightly el­e­vated tem­per­a­ture--100 to 102 de­grees Fahren­heit---may not be cause for con­cern if the horse oth­er­wise looks healthy and be­haves nor­mally. It’s pos­si­ble he’s still warm from re­cent ex­er­cise, be­ing over blan­keted or even just stand­ing in a sunny spot. This is called hy­per­ther­mia, as op­posed to fever, and your horse’s tem­per­a­ture will re­turn to nor­mal once his sit­u­a­tion changes. If your horse looks with­drawn, is re­fus­ing feed or oth­er­wise seems ill, how­ever, let a lit­tle time pass and then take his tem­per­a­ture again. If the fever is sus­tained, touch base with your ve­teri­nar­ian.

Your ve­teri­nar­ian will try to de­ter­mine the source of the fever. Has the horse been cough­ing? Has he had any re­cent in­juries? Does he have di­ar­rhea? All of these are po­ten­tial clues to the body sys­tem af­fected and/or the na­ture of the in­fec­tion. If the fever is slight, no treat­ment may be needed---low­er­ing a fever that is part of the im­mune sys­tem’s re­sponse to a chal­lenge may ac­tu­ally pro­long a mi­nor ill­ness.

If your horse’s tem­per­a­ture reaches 103 de­grees or higher, call your ve­teri­nar­ian no mat­ter what. A high fever can be an in­di­ca­tion of se­ri­ous dis­ease, such as Po­tomac horse fever or en­do­tox­emia, and early in­ter­ven­tion can be crit­i­cal to sur­vival. If his tem­per­a­ture is ap­proach­ing 106, start ar­rang­ing for a trailer to get your horse to a clinic if your ve­teri­nar­ian can’t get there im­me­di­ately. A fever that high can, by it­self, dam­age cru­cial tis­sues and or­gans.

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