How to assess the colour of your horse’s mucous membranes

By Wendy Talbot on 16 March 2018

Wondering how to assess the colour of your horse’s mucous membranes? Your horse’s mucous membranes (gums) should be moist and a healthy salmon pink colour.

The capillary refill time of your horse’s gums will give you an indication of the efficiency of his circulation.

How to do it

To assess the colour your horse’s mucous membranes make sure you are in a well-lit area or use a torch because colour can be very deceptive in poor light.  To assess the capillary refill time, vigorously press one finger on the gum above the top front teeth and remove it quickly – it should take no more than two seconds for the area to turn from white back to pink.

Watch our video on how to assess the colour of your horse’s mucous membranes (courtesy of brookfarmstables)

What are vital signs?

The principal vital signs for horses are temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and mucus membrane colour. Knowing the normal range of your horse’s vital signs and how to take them will help you to monitor his health and can give you an important early warning that something could be wrong. Being familiar with your horse’s normal weight is also important because changes may indicate ill health. Always call your vet immediately if any vital signs are not as expected.

Related Content:

How to measure your horse’s respiratory rate



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Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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