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Equine Geriatric Health Study

After taking part in a equine geriatric health study, by the university  of liverpool I received a newsletter showing the results, and I must say it is so interesting and full of useful information that I just have to share the information with you.
Horses and Ponies in the study ranged from 15-45 years old and from 7-18.2 hands high and from Shire to Shetlands.
It was found that signs of aging start to show on average at 19years of age, Ponies appear to age better in comparison to horses. According to the study, with over 900 people providing information.
The most common signs of ageing in ponies and horses are:
  • Stiff joints or lack of joint flexibility 42%
  • Increasing grey hairs, especially around the eyes, forehead and muzzle 33%
  • Loss of muscle tone 24%
  • Deepening of the hollws above the eyes 22%
Over 77% of participents noticed at least one clinical sign of disease in their geriatric horse or pony within the previous year. The five most common signs were:
  • Changes in hair coat or shedding 24%
  • Muscle loss 20%
  • Weight loss 17%
  • Coughing 14%
  • Hoof problems or changes in hoof quality 14%
The most common health problems reported were:
  • Hoof Problems 26%
  • Lameness 24%
  • Dental problems 19%
  • Wounds/accidental injuries 10%
  • Colic 9%
  • Respitory problems 7%
  • Skin diseases 7%
  • Laminitis 7%
The most common disease report by owners over all 8% was Osteoarthiritis.
The most common abnormatilites upon a veterinary examination were:
  • Dental abnormalities 95%
  • Eye abnormatlities 94%
  • Hoof abnormalities 80%
  • Skin problems 71%
  • Lameness 50%
  • Respitory abnormalities 22%
  • Heart Murmurs 20%
There were some differences between common conditions in horses compared to ponies.
Key Signs to look out for in your Older Horse or Pony
  • Lameness – stiff joints may be an early warning
    sign
  • Cough and/or nasal discharge
  • Changes in appearance indlucing coat changes,
    loss of muscle or muscle tone, developing a pot bellied appearance
  • Depression, lethargy or exercise intolerance
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Struggling with food or decreased appetite
  • Increased or decreased thirst
  • Change in droppings amount or consistency
How to help keep your older horse or pony happy and healthy
  • Annual full veterinary health exam
  • Regular vaccinations
  • Dental check every 6-12 months
  • Regular worming as required
  • Regular foot care
  • Adequate shelter from the weather
  • Exercise- ridden, in-hand or even just field turnout
  • Suitable diet- based on body condition, level or  exercise and any dental problems
Dental Care Hoof Care Worming
Dental Disorders are very
common in geriactric horses and ponies with at least one abnormality found in
95% in those examined during the study.
Horses may not always show obvious signs so regular dental treatment by
your vet or registered equine dental technician can help keep teeth working as
efficiently as possible and keep your horse’s mouth comfortable.
As horses and ponies get
older they are less likely to be shod, receive less frequent visits from the
farrier and are more likely to have hoof problmes.  In fact 80% had at least one hoof abnormality
when examined, so regular farrier checks in older horses and ponies will help
management of these abnormalities, reducing the risk of them cuasing lamess or
other problems.
The vast majority of horses
and ponies in the study were regularly de-wormed.  However, some horses and ponies aged 30 years
or above had positive results when tested for tapeworm, despite having an
adequate worming history.  It is
advisable for you to discuss your choice of worming programme with your vet who
will be able to devise a tailor-made plan for your horse or pony.

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