Heading out of town for the holidays? Like many horse owners, your horse’s health, safety and wellness is top of mind when you are preparing to leave. Hopefully you already have a farm sitter lined up to care for your animals while you are gone. Before you go, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.
Senior Horse Health and Wellness TipsBack to overview
Most important thing – regular screening and preventive veterinary care!
- Regular veterinary exams – Every horse should be seen by a veterinarian on a regular basis for wellness care and vaccinations, but it is even more important for older horses. Routine examinations, and screening tests like blood work can help identify potential problems early so interventions can be started when they most likely to be successful. Additionally, older horses have weakened immune systems compared to their younger counterparts, making it harder to fight off infectious and parasitic diseases. Your veterinarian can work with you to develop the most appropriate vaccination and deworming protocols for your senior horse.
- Regular oral exams, dental floats as needed – Along with regular veterinary checks, senior horses should have oral examinations at least every 6 months, with dental floats as needed. Maintaining oral health is essential in helping senior horses get the proper nutrition they need to maintain proper body condition. Additionally, if horses are unable to chew their food properly, they become susceptible to large colon impactions and esophageal chokes. Both of these conditions may be life threatening if not promptly addressed by a veterinarian. The best way to prevent them is through regular oral care.
- Keep older horses moving – Senior horses, especially working or performance horses, are susceptible to joint stiffness and soreness. The best way to help improve these horses’ comfort and mobility is to keep them moving. Even in cooler weather or the “off-season”, horses should get at least 20 minutes of light work several times per week. Hacking, longeing, and active turnout are all great ways to accomplish this. Adding a joint health supplement such as Flexadin UC-II® can also help improve joint comfort and mobility if used consistently.
- Assess and address body condition – Horses tend to lose lean body mass as they get older and replace it with adipose (fat). Horse owners may appreciate this as a loss of top line. Your veterinarian can teach you how to assess monitor your horse’s body condition, and determine what interventions may be most appropriate. Daily use of Myo Power can help support and maintain muscle mass.
- Ensure appropriate barn ventilation – Many older horses suffer from allergic airway problems, many of which are made worse by poor ventilation and dusty environments. Ensuring proper ventilation in the barn is important. Taking steps to reduce dust and allergens including providing adequate turn out, soaking hay, not storing hay above stalls, keeping the barn clean, and minimizing sweeping when affected horses are in the barn are all steps that can help. Secreta Pro Max is an herbal-based respiratory support supplement that may help these animals breath easier.
- Monitor for lumps and bumps – Older horses, especially color-dilute and gray horses, are susceptible to developing tumors as they age, the most common of which include melanomas, sarcoids, and squamous cell carcinomas. Owners should monitor the areas around the eyes, girth, prepuce, perianal area, and base of tail for any cutaneous masses. If discovered, consult with your veterinarian on the best course of action for your horse.
Good resources of additional information:
https://www2.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ceh/local_resources/pdfs/pubs-HR24-3-bkm-sec.pdf (old, but good resource)
The Barn Blog
The dry air associated with cold temperatures may cause your skin to be a bit itchy this winter. With all this scratching, you might wonder if your horse is susceptible to any seasonal dermatologic issues. Here are a few to keep a look out for. As always, if you notice any abnormality with your animal, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian for appropriate diagnostic and treatment recommendations.