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Prevent Complications! 5 Essential Senior Horse Exams

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Senior horse health care is not about simply switching to a senior feed.  Taking care of your senior horse is mostly about monitoring them more closely for signs of disease, and preventing problems before they develop into something more serious. 

There is no magic age that your horse becomes a senior; however, you should start considering it at around 17-20 yrs of age.  Just as people age differently, so do horses.  Genetics and environment both play a role.  Horses who have led an easy life with consistent light work, who are in good athletic condition, and have had good nutrition and health care their entire life will tend to be in better health as they age.  On the other hand, horses who have been overworked, fed poor diets, and had little preventative and dental health care will tend to develop more age related problems.   

We do not want to simply attribute symptoms to “old age,” and just accept the fact that our horse is aging.  Talk with your veterinarian about any abnormal symptoms, and prevent small problems from becoming life-threatening by having the following exams performed:

  1. Dental exams - sharp points, severely worn, and missing teeth can cause weight loss because the horse cannot chew their food effectively.  These horses will not only need dental care by a trained equine veterinarian but may also need to be on a special senior feed that is easier to chew such as Manna Senior.
  2. Lameness exams – Horses who are stiff, or whose joints “crack” when they walk, may have arthritis which can be treated with joint supplements such as Rapid Flex, anti-inflammatory medications, or joint injections. 
  3. Routine blood work – check for diseases that become more common with age like Cushing’s disease, Thyroid disease, Metabolic Syndrome, kidney disease, and liver disease. 
  4. Asses your horse’s body condition- winter coats can hide weight loss. Begin a monthly check by running your hands over your horse. You should be able to feel their ribs, but not able to see them. If his ribs, spine or hipbones become more prominent than normal, adjust his ration accordingly. Contact your veterinarian if your horse loses weight for no apparent reason. 
  5. Perform a Capillary Refill Test-Your horse's gums should be a pale pink color with a moist feel. When you push on your horse's gums just above his front teeth the color should return within 2 seconds. If the gums are white, your horse may be Anemic (low red blood cells). If the color does not return promptly, your horse may have a circulation problem, and if the gums are dry or sticky your horse may be dehydrated. This is an easy test to monitor at home, and if you notice any changes, you should contact your veterinarian. 

Through prevention and advances in veterinary care and nutrition, we can help our horses live longer, healthier, happier, more productive lives!

Dr. Shannon Baker graduated from the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002 with her DVM degree.  After vet school, she completed an Equine Internship at MU. She currently owns Heartland Veterinary Services, a full service equine ambulatory practice with an emphasis in equine dentistry.

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Formulated with a natural source of Glucosamine, Biotin and Omega-3 fatty acids, Senior Snax make the perfect treat for older horses. Not only are not only wholesome and tasty, they are easy-to-chew too!

 

 

 

Dr. Shannon Baker DVM

Dr. Shannon Baker DVM

Dr. Shannon Baker graduated from the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002 with her DVM degree. After vet school, she completed an Equine Internship at MU. She currently owns Heartland Veterinary Services, a full service equine ambulatory practice with an emphasis in equine dentistry.

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