How to check your horse for gut sounds
Checking for your horse for gut sounds is a handy skill and can become a part of your horse’s baseline repertoire. If you suspect something is wrong, you can check vitals and gut sounds to compare to your horse’s “every day” and “feeling groovy” sounds.
Tools for gut sound checking
- Checking your horse’s gut sounds is easiest (and safest) with a stethoscope. Your ear seems to be a popular option, but at the risk of getting stomped on and not having a totally legit assessment. Stand back, and let the amplification of a stethoscope do the work for you. Also – a horse in a major colic attack involving belly kicking can nail you with a hind leg if you are listening for gut sounds with your ear.
Approximate locations to listen to!
What to listen for when checking your horse’s flanks
- You need to know your horse’s normal gut sounds when there’s no colic. During a suspected colic, this gives you something to compare. You will hear normal intestinal sounds when your horse is groovy, healthy, and well. Be sure to listen for up to a minute in each quadrant (more on those later), and take note of how long it’s been since your horse ate, as this may affect the sounds.
- I could try and describe in painstaking detail what these sounds should be. But, every horse is different and everyone may interpret a description differently. The best way to learn is to grab your stethoscope and start listening. A handy lesson from your veterinarian at his next visit will also give you tons of insight.
- Generally speaking, when listening to your horse’s gut, you will hear about two to four bubbles or gurgles per minute, with a louder groan every few minutes. Borborygmus is the fancy term for a single gut sound, and borborygmi is the fancy name for many gut sounds.
- If you suspect your horse is not feeling well and you check his quadrants, try not to panic. Always call your veterinarian if you suspect something is amiss, and having your horse’s vital signs, including gut sounds, handy will help your veterinarian.
Stethoscopes are inexpensive and a vital part of any barn’s first aid kit.
Listen for gut sounds in the four quadrants
- From the outside of your horse, you can think of his gut as divided into four quadrants. Left side top and bottom, and right side top and bottom.
- The left side top corresponds to the small intestine, which is usually pretty quiet.
- The left side bottom is the large intestine.
- The right side top is the cecum and large intestine.
- The right side bottom is the large intestine.
- The top and bottom locations are roughly marked on the photo. Your veterinarian can give you more specific locations on your horse that match his anatomy and shape. Armed with a stethoscope, you now have the tools to care for your horse better!
Counting gut sounds
- As you listen for those borborygmi, count them for one minute. The normal is 1 to 3 gurgles per minute.
- A horse’s gut is hypomotile if the gut is completely quiet or the sounds come at less than one gurgle per minute. This sometimes indicates obstructions and generally poor movement of the digestive system.
- In cases of hypermobility, you will hear more than three gurgles in a minute. Inflammatory conditions like colitis often make frequent noise in the gut, as does diarrhea.
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ADC Veterinary Thermometer, Dual Scale, Adtemp 422 – For easy temperature taking
3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope, Black Edition Chestpiece, Black Tube, 27 inch, 5803 – For finding heart rate and gut sounds
More first aid items to have on hand:
Sox for Horses – for any skin funk, fly problems, summer sore, stomping, etc.
Perri’s Standing Bandages, Pack of 4 – so many colors to choose from
Sore No More Liniment Bottle – pick your size