Hypothermia in Horses

Hypothermia in Horses

 

Horses with thick, winter coats who spend a lot of time outside can look impervious to the elements, but do not let their appearance fool you.  Horses are still sensitive to cold weather.  The normal body temperature for a horse is around 100° F.  When their body temperature drops below 100° F, their body systems do not function normally.  Everything begins to slow down.  Extremities lose circulation because the horse’s body is trying to keep its core organs warm.  Loss of circulation in small body parts like ears and noses leads to frost bite.  The horse will shiver to try to stay warm, but their breathing and heart rate will slow.  If the horse gets cold enough they will slip into a coma.  Be especially careful of foals and senior horses because they are most susceptible to hypothermia.

 

If you find your horse suffering from hypothermia you need to warm them up immediately.  Use warm blankets, heat lamps, hot water bottles or heating pads.  Be careful not to heat them up too much because you could risk burning their skin!  Any time the weather is cold outside, it is best to keep your horses out of the elements.  A warm barn is the best place to be when the weather is especially cold, but horses that may be outside during cold weather should wear blankets and have access to a run-in shelter.  Animals that are wet will feel the effects of hypothermia much more quickly.