There will come a time in your horse’s life where their career path will change from equine athlete to retired equine partner. Our goal is to discuss steps you can take to offer a smooth transition. After all, the effort they have put into their jobs for us warrants a well-deserved retirement plan!
While going about your daily barn chores, it is vital to create a routine for you and your horse to establish his or her “normal.” This routine can be as simple as giving them a thorough daily groom to check for any lumps, bumps, cuts, or scrapes and note any body condition score or coat color changes. Setting a baseline allows you to recognize any deviations in behavior or wellbeing more easily. An examination is critical in the later stages of their life when identifying subtle changes can help address health concerns early.
Just like people, horses’ organ and immune system function change with age. The Starwood veterinary team recommends collecting annual blood work to assess current health and act as a baseline for future reference and comparison.
Starwood Equine now offers in-house lab work, providing its veterinarians and clients with rapid results to plan treatment more effectively. This bloodwork provides valuable insights into your horse’s health. A complete blood count (CBC) looks for any signs of anemia or systemic inflammation, while the blood chemistry looks at muscle and organ system function. Assessing organ function can help monitor response to long-term medication use - that many geriatric horses receive.
Adding regular testing to your older horse’s annual examination is not only an easy way to assess your horse’s overall health but also will display any early signs of potentially serious diseases. Typically, routine bloodwork includes CBC and chemistry. However, Starwood also has a stall-side SAA that measures systemic inflammation within minutes on the farm.
Based on your horse’s presentation, we may also recommend screening for endocrine conditions, including pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID or Cushing’s disease) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). Although EMS and PPID can occur at any age, PPID is most commonly found in horses over the age of 12, and EMS is often detected in horses between the ages of 10-20. These endocrine changes can affect many aspects of your horse’s wellbeing, including their performance and energy, the propensity to infections or hoof inflammation (laminitis), muscle mass, hair coat, and fat distribution. Early detection through bloodwork helps to manage the signs of PPID and EMS before they become serious.
Stay tuned for an upcoming Blog Post on EMS and PPID!
In all, this bloodwork helps to monitor current and future conditions that may not be visible to us externally. Regular evaluation can increase the chances of extending the comfort and life of your beloved senior companion. Call Starwood to schedule this routine screening or ask us to include it in our next vaccine visit!
Your beloved hooved family member doesn’t move as quickly as they once did, nor do they clean up their dinner as ravenously as their younger colleagues down the barn aisle still do. Observing their nightly meal, you may notice that they struggle to keep their grain in their mouth and instead offer to share some of their semi-chewed foodstuffs with you. Is this a veterinary concern, you ask? Though it might not be considered an urgent emergency, it certainly is a worthwhile topic to address with your veterinarian.
When older horses can no longer chew as they once did, they begin to exhibit signs indicating to us that something may not be quite right with them orally. They may attempt to chew feed but end up dropping partially chewed foodstuff; an action called quidding. You may find that they are progressively more reluctant to clean up their breakfast or slowly becoming disinterested in food altogether. Difficulty consuming all of their calories and nutrients results in older horses having a significantly greater risk of malnourishment, weight loss, and oral infection. They may also experience an overall suppressed immune system.
Horses’ teeth continuously erupt throughout their lives. Their teeth begin to expire as they age. Progressive loss of occlusive surface makes them prone to more oral problems, including:
With digestion and the ability to absorb nutrients continually diminishing with age, owners can support their aging athletes with minimal intervention at home. Transitioning your horse’s diet to more easily digestible foods, such as pellets, may be warranted if they experience difficulty chewing hay. Soaked hay cubes are another alternative source of fiber available, providing proper roughage in an easily consumable way. If chewing capabilities continue to decline, offering highly palatable and nutritionally balanced pelleted feeds with higher caloric value may allow older horses to meet adequate nutrition and satiety needs while consuming smaller volumes of food altogether.
By having an annual oral examination performed on your senior horse, your veterinarian can assess your horse’s oral health and offer suggestions for better supportive measures. Using an oral speculum paired with light sedation, we can visualize the whole mouth to find abnormalities. Your veterinarian will then determine whether floating or further diagnostics and treatments are warranted.
Older horses, just like older humans, are prone to a myriad of dental woes. With diligent monitoring by the attentive owner and annual care provided by your veterinarian, many primary and painful issues can be successfully managed or altogether avoided so that your horse may live out his or her golden years pain-free.