Health Problems Identified and Treated in Geriatric HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 30, 2011
Horses over 15 years of age make up a significant percentage of the equine population in some countries. For the most part, these senior equines are still energetic, active, and able to be ridden or driven, but they are entering a life stage in which they will begin to show some signs of declining health. Owners may look at this decline as "just old age" and do not see a need to have the horse examined by a veterinarian. However, some conditions commonly affecting older horses can be treated effectively, keeping the horse comfortable and extending his useful life.
A study conducted at the University of Liverpool looked at the health of 200 older horses that were randomly selected from the equine population in England and Wales. The horses were examined by a veterinarian, who found signs of health problems in almost all the animals. Among the conditions noted were the following:
- Overweight (26%) or underweight (4.5%)
- Overgrowth of hair (25%)
- Skin abnormalities:melanomas, sarcoids, insect sensitivity, or aural plaques (71%)
- Eye abnormalities including cataracts (58%)
- Heart murmurs (20%)
- Lameness at the trot (50%)
- Hoof problems of some type (80%)
- Dental abnormalities (95%)
- Nasal discharge (22%)
Knowing that these conditions are common in aging horses may help owners detect signs of problems. Identifying and treating these conditions can keep older horses in significantly better health through their later years.