What Are the Signs of An Unhealthy Horse?

Equine vet with horse

Do You Know How Healthy Your Horse Is?

Horses usually do a very good job of hiding illnesses. In fact, you may not notice any dramatic changes in your horse's appearance or behavior even if it's struggling with an illness or injury. Luckily, paying attention to a few important signs can help you decide if it's time to call an equine veterinarian.

Weight Loss

Although weight may fluctuate with the seasons and your horse's activity level, losing more than a few pounds can be a sign of a health problem. Weight loss can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Worms and other parasites
  • Dental problems
  • Poor nutrition
  • Digestive issues
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Heart failure
  • Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • Organ failure
  • Infections

Laminitis or arthritis may affect your horse's ability to graze and could also lead to weight loss.

Pale Gums

Are your horse's gums dry and pale instead of wet and pink? Dehydration could be to blame. Other signs of dehydration can include sunken eyes, dark urine, and skin that doesn't snap back when pulled up gently. Extreme heat and humidity, exercise, diarrhea, or lack of access to water could cause dehydration.

If dehydration isn't treated promptly, your horse could collapse or even die. Once your horse becomes dehydrated, it may no longer feel thirsty. Offering a liquid or feed-based electrolyte solution will increase thirst and encourage your horse to drink. Your veterinarian may use a tube to deposit the solution directly into your horse's stomach.

Lack of Appetite

Has your normally ravenous horse stopped eating? An appetite change could be due to an illness, pain from an injury, mouth or stomach ulcer, dental problems, a new type of feed, or moldy hay. If your horse became uninterested in food after a move to a new stable or another change in its environment, stress could be to blame.

Lack of appetite could also be a sign of colic, a leading cause of death in horses, according to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food & Environment. Colic triggers abdominal pain that can be caused by overexertion, feeding issues, intestinal tract issues, intestinal contractions, twisted intestines, blockages, pregnancy, infections, lameness, parasites, or tumors. If your horse has colic, it may roll on the ground or lie down, seem restless, or even kick its abdomen with its hooves. Since it can be difficult to determine the cause of colic, it's important to call your equine veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these signs.


A fever is an obvious sign that your horse isn't feeling well, but how high is too high? The American Association of Equine Practitioners advises that normal resting temperatures in adult horses range from 99 to 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, while normal temperatures for foals are from 99.5 to 102.1. If your horse's temperature is higher than the normal range, it may have an illness or infection.

A Dull Coat

If your horse's normally shiny coat has suddenly become dull or patchy, get in touch with your equine veterinarian. Coat changes could be due to poor appetite or nutrition, stomach ulcers, fungal infections, internal or external parasites, or equine Cushing's disease.

Other Changes

These signs could also mean that your horse is ill:

  • Changes in the amount of manure and urine produced
  • Disinterest in socializing with other horses or people
  • Swelling anywhere on your horse's body
  • Noisy, rapid, or difficult breathing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fatigue or reduced stamina
  • Weakness
  • Stiff movements
  • Drinking more than normal

You know your horse better than anyone else. If something doesn't seem quite right, it never hurts to talk to your equine veterinarian. Contact our office if you'd like to ask a question or arrange a visit.


University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food & Environment: Colic in Horses

American Association of Equine Practitioners: Signs of a Healthy Horse

Penn State Extension: Recognizing a Healthy Horse, 2/22/2021

The Horse: Inside Information: 10 Signs of Internal Illness in Horses, 8/4/20


Find us on the map

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule


9:00 AM-6:00 PM


9:00 AM-8:00 PM


9:00 AM-4:00 PM


9:00 AM-6:00 PM


9:00 AM-5:00 PM


9:00 AM-3:00 PM



  • "I have my puppy for only 4 days and the doctor provided all the answers to my million questions. She was patient and kind and very loving to my pup. She diagnosed ear mites and cleaned his ears throughly. She explained everything throughly and even comforted me when I got upset about him being a little sick. I would highly recommend and will be taking Finn her from here on out. Thank you thank you thank you!!"
    by Jeanna P. on 04/06/2022
  • ""My husband and I absolutely love Three Village Veterinary Hospital! Our puppies adore Dr. Sophia, and she takes the best care of them whenever we bring them in. When our newest puppy broke her leg and had to have surgery, Dr. Sophia called us right away to check in and see how she was doing, which meant the world to us! All of the vet techs and front desk staff are also amazing! I couldn't imagine bringing our babies anywhere else.""
    Jessica K.
  • "'They have taken great care of my puppy...even when he does scary things like eating light bulbs ( metal and all). As a first time dog owner I have lots of questions and each of the vets have taken their time to answer all of my questions and concerns without ever making me feel stupid for asking. The support staff is also very knowledgeable, helpful and truly gets excited to see each of the animals that comes through the door.'"
    Joanne W
  • ""I could not be happier with my visit to Three Village Veterinary Hospital! I just recently moved to New York and have been extremely nervous in choosing a new veterinarian for my dog (he’s super stubborn and can be a real handful). I called Three Village Veterinary Hospital and right off the bat Dr. Sophia Was fantastic! She really took the time to dive into Huxley’s history with me, including his anxiousness about vet visits. Hearing Dr. Sophia ask all the right questions reassured me that Huxley was in good hands.

    Huxley came out of his appointment with a bill of clean health and a ton of new friends in the office staff, I couldn’t believe how happy he was! I am so glad that I was recommended to Three Village Veterinary Hospital and feel incredibly relieved to have found a fantastic new team that I can trust Huxley with. I HIGHLY recommend!""
    Michelle G
  • ""I would never go to another place but this one, even if I had to travel. best professional understanding point on doctors there. they opened their doors and stayed open just for me after hours. They had so much empathy & helped me make the right decision in a short time. I recieved a hand written card from them a couple of days after my visit, which made me cry. I trust them and respect all of them 100% my entire will be taken our pets theres. I cant thank them enough""
  • "We've been with TVVH for over 25 years. Could not imagine going elsewhere. In addition to their professional expertise is the consistent human element; their very real kindness and caring. Office staff, technicians and doctors all are exceptional."
    Linda B
  • "The staff and doctors are amazing. The older my Shih Tzu gets the more difficult and snappy he has become. Your doctors and staff are kind, gentle, and professional. You don't make me feel like I have a bad dog or I raised him wrong. I feel you care not just for me dog but for me (who can be a bit neurotic about my dog). Your tech staff and doctors...even the front desk staff are the best!!"
    Rebecca D
  • "I not only use Three Village Veterinary for my personal animals, but frequently recommend them to my grooming customers as well. I trust them explicitly and value their professionalism, but above all their compassion... all the doctors there are great & the fact that they put up with my MANY emergencies (& my neurosis) makes them my fav. Love you guys <3"
    Melissa V