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"My horse's urine looks red/orange in the snow. Is that blood?"

December 5, 2019

This is a really common question that we hear every year during the winter months, when there is snow on the ground. People usually notice red, orange or brown spots in the snow and ice where their horses have urinated.  Normal horse urine sometimes turns red or brown after standing for a while. This is due to the presence of oxidizing agents termed “pyrocatechines. It can happen year round (the same process can turn stall shavings red), but is especially obvious against the white snow!

Normal horse urine appears colorless, yellow or even cloudy yellow as it is voided. The color and cloudiness change as the bladder is fully emptied. If the urine appears a red, brown or orange color as it is being passed that can indicate a significant problem. Things that change the color of the urine before it is passed include blood, the breakdown of blood cells and the breakdown of muscle cells.

If you notice your horse urinating an abnormal color, that is reason to have a veterinarian examine him or her. If your horse is passing yellow urine that is turning red in the snow, you can rest easy - that is normal.