Equine Emergencies

So you think you might have an emergency, and you are wondering if you need to have an emergency exam.....

The first thing to remember is that it is impossible, illegal, unethical, and probably immoral to diagnose over the phone (at least it is not fattening). To make a diagnosis, the doctor needs to take the history, make observervations, collect data, take measurements, form impressions, and then put it all together to decide what the problem is. It takes nearly all the senses: sight, touch, smell, hearing, (but thankfully not taste), to get all the information we need. Often it also takes labwork. Medicine is both an art and a science, and neither art nor science happen over the phone.

The Point:  I can't tell you if your horse is going to be okay until tomorrow or not over the phone. I need to examine the horse first. If you had a terrible stomach ache, and you called your doctor and he told you to just take two aspirin and call him in the morning, would you feel that you had gotten a good diagnosis? Would you still worry that maybe you have appendicitis? Would you feel any better than you did before you called?

So When is it an Emergency?

Below is a list of problems that may very well be serious and need immediate attention. The underlined headings are links you can click for more information. While this is not an exhaustive list, it may get you started.


Colic means abdominal pain. When horses have abdominal pain, they show it by doing things like not eating (a big change for some horses), lying down, rolling, kicking at their side or stomach, looking at their flank, sweating, or trying to urinate repeatedly. They sometimes have a painful expression. They become less interested in what's going on around them. When you see this kind of behavior, I recommend having them examined ASAP. DO NOT give banamine or any other drug without checking with the veterinarian first, because it makes it nearly impossible to tell whether the colic is severe or not.

Cuts Anywhere Near a Joint or Tendon

Wounds, even small wounds, near a tendon or joint can be very serious, and even hours can make a difference. Any wound that is more than skin deep, especially puncture wounds, that is near a joint or tendon needs to be examined sooner rather than later.

Uncontrolled, Severe Bleeding

Apply a tight wrap and have the patient examined as soon as possible.

Down and Can't Get Up

Bad things happen when horses are down and can't get up. These are true emergencies.

Green Stuff coming out the Horse's Nose

This can be a sign of "choke," or esophageal obstruction. The danger here is esophageal perforation or pneumonia from snorting the gree stuff into their lungs. These need to be seen right away.

Emergency Policy

There is a $78 after-hour fee in addition to regular charges for all after-hours work. We do not allow charges for after-hours work.