With few exceptions a loose box is recommended for a horse that is ill, and for several reasons. To begin with, it should be light and cheerful, and a temperature of about 55° Fahr. will in most cases be sufficiently high. It should be well ventilated, but free from draught.
Where the menage will permit, the sick-box should be wholly detached from all other stables, as a disease about which there may have been doubt at first even to the expert, may at any time prove to be contagious. It should, of course, be properly drained. Horses are of necessity kept in some places where these conditions cannot be provided. In such circumstances special attention should be given to ventilation, and the sanitary state of the stable should in every particular be made as complete as possible.
In cases of lameness or injury, where no possible harm to others can result, a horse may remain in sight and sound of his usual companions with advantage, as his gregarious instincts are offended when condemned to solitary confinement unless he is too ill to care about his surroundings. In a state of nature a sick animal leaves the herd, an instinct which may be accounted for in several ways, but the injured one tries to keep up with his fellows. The door of the sick-box should always open outwards, or the attendant may be unable to enter when the patient is prone and cannot rise.
There should be as little furniture as possible, and that should be capable of easy removal for cleansing and disinfection; after recovery or death of the patient the whole of the stable should be whitewashed before introducing another animal into it, while other and more effectual measures of sanitation must be resorted to where an infectious disease has been treated. (See Disinfection.)
Special circumstances will have to determine the bedding to be employed for invalid horses. For example, a case of laminitis, in which poultices or wet swabs are not still in use, may be benefited by the employment of peat-moss rather than straw, which, when not frequently turned and changed, soon becomes offensive; or saw-dust obtained from deal or pine.
In pulmonary diseases, where dust is objectionable, peat-moss and saw-dust are both unsuited to the sick-box.
In cases of paralysis, long straw gets heaped up or scraped together by the patient's ill-directed movements, and the skin covering the most prominent points is liable to injury from the bare floor. Straw in trusses may be cut through with a hay-knife in these cases, and when short is less liable to be collected about the animal's legs. Whether straw, hay, or ferns are used, the bedding should be constantly forked over, and if the patient is unable to rise, he should be made comfortable by being-turned over at least once in the twenty - four hours, and assisted to maintain a reposeful attitude by suitable packing placed under the withers and elsewhere. A convenient posture is of course conducive to sleep, the necessity for which appears to be too often overlooked in regard to equine patients, because it is well known that in health they require comparatively little of "nature's sweet restorer".