Horse Vital Signs Part 3 – What Is My Horse’s Normal Respiration Rate?

  1. Horse Vital Signs Part 1 – What Is My Horse’s Normal Temperature?
  2. Horse Vital Signs Part 2 – What Is My Horse’s Normal Heart Rate?
  3. Horse Vital Signs Part 3 – What Is My Horse’s Normal Respiration Rate?
  4. Capillary refill time (CRT) and hydration skin pinch test in horses explained.

Check your horses’ vital signs when they are at rest so you can determine what is normal.

A cool fact about your horse’s respiration rate:

A normal horse takes in about 1.25 gallons of air with each breath. At 12 breaths per minute a horse will take in 16 gallons of air per minute. Breathing patterns of the horse are linked to locomotion. When cantering or galloping, the horse will take one breath with each stride. This allows the horse to use his body mass to increase the efficiency and speed of air exchange in his lungs.

What’s normal?

A normal resting respiration rate for mature horses is 8 to 24 breaths per minute. Very fit horses may have even lower respiration rates.

Newborn foals have respiration rates between 60 and 80 breaths per minute. Respiration rates drop to 20 to 40 breaths per minute in older foals and continue to slow as the young horse reaches maturity.

During exercise the respiration rate can go as high as 180 breaths per minute.

What can cause an abnormal elevated respiration rate and effort?

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Heat stress or heat stroke
  • Respiratory illness/distress
  • Strenuous exercise beyond what the horse is capable of

Abnormal respiration rates should be reported to your veterinarian. Horses in acute respiratory distress should be treated immediately.

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