Three Signs of Dehydration in your Horse

Here in sunny California we’ve been hitting temperatures of above a hundred for over a month now. As we left spring the temperatures fought the need to stay steady and constantly went up and down. When it goes from cool one day and then ten to fifteen degrees warmer the next day your horse might not be as interested in drinking water. My friend’s barn had an issue with colic because of it. Constant temperatures are actually easier on your horse. When the weather starts shifting and then finally settles into constant heat dehydration is one of my first concerns. Check out these three ways to check for dehydration in your horse.

Three Ways to Detect Dehydration in Your Horse

The Tent Test

The tent test is one of the oldest in the book and involves pinching the skin on the neck of the horse creating a tenting effect. If the horse is well hydrated the skin will flatten back out within seconds, but if dehydrated the skin will stick to itself staying tented. The longer it takes to flatten out, the more dehydrated your horse. However, this is not a fool proof method. Different horses’ skin will tent at different rates. What might indicate dehydration for one horse won’t for another. It’s important here to know your horse and what’s normal. To be able to use this method do the test on a regular basis even when you know your horse is well hydrated. This will provide you with a baseline.

Gum Color

The next thing you can check is the color of your horse’s gums. Again this one to have a good baseline for. Typically a horse’s gums are pink, if you lift up your horse’s lip and the gums are suddenly very pale in color or gone the opposite and are now a much darker pink or red this could be a sign of dehydration.

Capillary Refill

This test goes hand in hand with gum color. To perform this test press a finger against your horse’s gums. Just like when you press against your own skin you’ll leave a white spot. If that spot refills within seconds you probably having nothing to worry about, but like the tenting test if it takes a while to refill this could be a sign of dehydration.

All three of these things are related to the idea that dehydration causes a lack of moisture in the skin. It’s important to note that none of these by themselves can diagnose dehydration. However, if all three are present I would take this as a sign to monitor your horse’s water intake and general demeanor.

If you’re horse is exhibiting the above three you can also check your horse’s heart rate and respiratory rate. If you use either of these as indicators it is important to know what the resting rate is for each of these. Dehydration causes an increase in both rates.

With warm weather here to stay it’s important to avoid dehydration in your horse.