Capillary refill time (CRT) and hydration skin pinch test in horses explained.

If you suspect that your horse is becoming dehydrated or is colicking, there are two simple tests you can perform to check their hydration status.

Skin-pinch test

How to do it:

Pinch the skin near the point of the shoulder.

What to look for:

  • Skin snaps quickly back into place = sufficient hydration.
  • Skin stays tented for two to four seconds = moderate dehydration.
  • Skin remains lifted from the flesh for four to six seconds = severe dehydration.

Capillary refill time (CRT)

How to do it:

CRT is evaluated by pressing a finger or thumb on the upper gum, above an incisor, for a second or two. Upon removal of your finger, the pressure point will be blanched, so watch to see how quickly the color reappears.

What to look for:

  • Color returns to the gum in one to two seconds: horse is amply hydrated.
  • Gums remain blanched for longer than two seconds: horse is likely dehydrated.

It’s a good idea to practice these techniques when you know your horse is healthy and well hydrated. That way, you will know what is normal for your horse and will be able to observe differences in skin tone and CRT readily.

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