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Vital Signs of Horses & Mules

| Mules | June 14, 2014

Can You Recognize Signs Of Stress?

It’s obvious there is a problem when your mule is cut or bleeding isn’t it. But what about colic or an injury that may not be as easily noticed, would you be able to see it building? That’s why you should know what the normal vital signs are for your mule, including temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR). You should also know their normal behavior pattern as well. Like how much water do they normally drink over night or through the day. All this requires being a good observer.


Of course will be variations of normal in individual temperatures, pulse and respiration counts so don’t assume that if you check one animal the other will be the same. You should take several baseline readings when your mule is healthy, rested, and relaxed. I keep a small notebook in the tack room to keep a record and it’s near my first aid kit for easy access. This is also a good place to keep emergency numbers.
Normal ranges for adult mules are:

Temperature: (rectal) 99.5 F – 101.5 F.
Pulse: 30 – 42 beats per minute
Respiration: 12-20 breaths per minute
You should contact your vet immediately if temperatures exceed 102.5 and temps over 103 degree indicate a serious condition.
Capillary Refill Time: 2 seconds
This is the time it takes the color to return to the gums adjacent to the teeth. Press the gum tissue with your thumb and release, color should return to normal in 2 seconds.

A Few Signs To Look For

Dehydration: Pinch or fold a flap of neck skin and release. It should snap back into place immediately, if it doesn’t this is sign of dehydration.

Color: The mucous membranes of the gums, nostril, inner eye tissue (conjunctiva), and inner lips of the vulva should be pink. Pale pink to white, bluish purple, or bright red coloring may indicate problems.

Lameness: Signs may be head bobbing, odd stance, reluctance to move, pain, swelling, being poor in the gait, or unwillingness to rise.

You should be aware of the usual color, consistency and volume of feces and urine of your mule. Any straining or failure to excrete should be reported to your vet.
It will help your vet immensely if you are able to give him information on the condition of your mule when you call him. Also, remember to stay calm. Your calmness will also help the mule to be less stressed. You are also more observant when calm.

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