Keeping a regular check on your horse’s temperature means that you can quickly pick up on when your horse might be unwell. But what can you do if your horse doesn’t accept a rectal thermometer? Vet Alistair Love shares his advice.

Knowing what’s normal for your horse’s temperature is worthwhile, but if your horse doesn’t tolerate the use of a rectal thermometer, it’s definitely not worth the risk of getting kicked.

There are a couple of potential options for checking your horse’s temperature, such as the use of embedded microchips, which have been used in small animals for some time but are not commonly used in horses.

Another option is the use of non-contact infrared thermometers. These have not been extensively validated in horses, and using human infrared thermometers for this purpose can lead to inaccurate results.

However, a non-contact infrared thermometer was used in a study investigating exertional heat stress in Thoroughbred racehorses, because it provided a safer, more practical means of assessing temperature.

To be used successfully, an average temperature must be taken over multiple sites, and the non-contact infrared thermometer needs to be used properly (the correct distance from the horse and perpendicular to the skin). Readings may be affected by the length of the horse’s coat, whether or not the horse has been rugged, and the ambient temperature. As a result, this method may be inaccurate under these circumstances.

Spot the signs

As a more reliable and practical solution, it may be worth considering monitoring your horse for other indicators of a high temperature.

Breathing rate and heart/ pulse rate may increase if your horse has a high temperature, and they may lose their appetite and become quiet or dull and depressed. Establishing what’s normal for these variables is likely to be your most practical and reliable solution

Meet the expert: Alistair Love is an RCVS recognised advanced practitioner in equine practise at Clevedale Vets Equine in North Yorkshire. See

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