Using Your Thumb for a Digital Pulse


Recently I posted How To Find a Digital Pulse on My Stable Life. And it came to my attention that some readers were opposed to the way we showed you how to find a digital pulse in a horse, since the pictures illustrated using a person\’s thumb to do so.

\”Rule one: Don\’t use your thumb, it has it\’s own pulse,\” as one reader responded, when we posted the blog entry to Facebook.

\”Ok…. But your doing it wrong,\” said another.

And finally, \”WITH A THUMB????\” wrote a third person.

It was at this point that I became compelled to respond <smile>. Having penned this article with one of Canada\’s most respected veterinarians, Dr. Dennis Rach, I knew he knew what he was talking about. And it is Dr. Rach\’s hands that are actually featured in the pictures.

Dr. Rach is a partner and President of Moore Equine Veterinary Centre (near Balzac, AB). He has been with the clinic since 1970, then called Moore & Sturm. As an equine chiropractor and equine acupuncturist, and member of both the American Association of Veterinary Chiropractors and International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, Dr. Rach offers a range of approaches for the treatment of lameness in the performance horse.



Here is what Dr. Rach had to say on the subject:

\”A horse’s pulse is entirely different from that of a human. If you had a measuring device such as an oscilloscope (which are used in hospitals to measure EKGs), a human\’s pulse would go straight up and straight down – just like a drill bit sticks up in the air.\”

\"Human-pulse\"\”With a horse, the pulse is square. It\’s what we call a full pulse. It goes up and across, like a rectangle.\”


\”Therefore when you are taking a horse\’s digital pulse you can\’t confuse it with your own pulse, because it feels completely different.

\”A human pulse hits you like a \’zing.\’

\”But a horse\’s digital pulse will push your finger out and back in. On an oscilloscope, the line will go up, across and down – it’s a full pulse. What you are feeling is the blood rising up against the wall of the artery. Then when it\’s gone, you feel nothing. In a horse, the pulse is a bigger, slower push.

\”How can you confuse a full pulse with a spike? They\’re entirely different so you can’t confuse them. A horse’s heart goes dalub-dub – so the wave looks and feels longer.  A human pulse is a quick \’zing.\’

\”If someone tells you you can\’t feel a digital pulse with your thumb, that is nonsense. Go ahead and use your thumb.\” – Dr. Dennis Rach.


1 thought on “Using Your Thumb for a Digital Pulse”

  1. Elaine Bessuille

    “Ok…. But your doing it wrong,” said another.

    I do hope that the grammatical error was that of the poster, not of the article writer. It should, of course, be “you’re” wrong, an abbreviation of “you are”. But since it appears without comment, it leaves the source of the error in question. This could have been avoided with the addition of [sic] following the error, indicating that the mistake occurred in the original.
    Square brackets are most commonly used around the word ‘sic’ (from the Latin ‘sicut’, meaning ‘just as’), to explain the status of an apparent mistake.

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