How do I check for gut sounds in my horse?
Checking for gut sounds is a handy skill to have, and can become a part of your horse’s baseline repertoire. Just in case you suspect something is wrong, you can check vitals and gut sounds to compare to your horse’s “everyday” and “feeling groovy” sounds.
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.
Approximate locations to listen to!
So what are you listening for? When your horse is groovy and healthy and well, you will hear normal intestinal sounds. 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. 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.
So what are these “quadrants”? From the outside of your horse, you can think of his gut as being 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 caecum and large intestine.
- The right side bottom is the large intestine.
The top and bottom location 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 you need to better take care of your horse!