Top three health issues for veteran horses

As your horse heads into his twilight years, his joints might not be as supple and his internal system as effective. Here are three of the most common health concerns to think about and keep an eye on as he gets older.

Veteran horses need that little more looking after than younger horses

Veteran horses need that little more looking after than younger horses

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is perhaps the most common ailment seen in older horses, but with the right medication and care the condition can be managed. It's generally brought on as a natural part of the ageing process. It can be quite easy to spot signs of arthritis, so look out for any new swellings around your horse’s joints, lameness, stiffness and reluctance to move forwards. 

Your vet will perform a flexion test to assess for lameness and mobility issues

Your vet will perform a flexion test to assess for lameness and mobility issues

If you believe your horse displays any of these symptoms, then contact your vet who will perform an examination by performing flexion tests and x-rays.

Once diagnosed to keep your old horse comfortable and able to enjoy life, your vet may choose to put him on anti-flammatory drugs. In extreme cases he may opt for surgery to remove cartilage or inject a gel-like material into his joint to increase lubrication and movement.  


To help your veteran with the condition, try making these few changes to his routine

·      Add a joint supplement to his feed

Turning your horse out will prevent stiffness

Turning your horse out will prevent stiffness

·      Keep his legs cosy, by using stable wraps

·      Book him in for a gentle massage 

·      Provide daily turnout so he can move around and loosen off his joints

     

 


2. Heart murmurs

Many competitive horses have a heart murmur and still live a happy and content life, so for an older horse who lives a less active life there may be less complications and changes to make to his daily routine. Many older horses will have a quiet murmur due to leaky valves, associated with the rapid filling and expulsion of blood from the heart. The murmur is obvious with the use of a stethoscope, when your horse’s heart should be silent between the normal heart sounds.

With the use of a stethoscope, the vet will listen to your horse's heart

With the use of a stethoscope, the vet will listen to your horse's heart

There might be no obvious signs of a heart murmur and usually they are only detected on a vetting. However, if your horse is suffering from a heart murmur he might be off his food, show signs of tiredness, increased temperature, respiratory and heart rate.

To diagnose a murmur, your vet will listen to your horse’s heart with a stethoscope. Once detected to understand the extent of the murmur, your horse might have an ultrasound or an electrocardiograph (ECG).


Heart murmurs can’t be treated, but you can keep an eye on your veteran’s condition, by trying these tips

·      Regularly check his heart rate at rest

·      Avoid stress and keep him in a routine

·      Check his weight regularly to avoid him carrying excess, putting strain on his heart


3. Cushing's disease

Cushing’s Disease is often referred to Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) and affects the older horse generation. The condition is caused by a nerve degeneration of the hypothalamus, which leads to the lack of secretion control of hormones ACTH and cortisol.

Typical signs are a long, curly coat, increased thirst, muscle wastage, tiredness and loss of weight with some displaying signs of fat deposits on their neck and above their eyes. Horses with the disease generally have more issues with laminitis and infections.

To diagnose Cushings (PPID), your vet will take a sample of blood for testing to confirm the condition. If the results come back positive he will be put on medication.


Although it can’t be cured, with these simple tips you can make your horse's life easier

·      Keep his weight down

·      Clip his coat if he sweats easily

·      Due to a low immune system keep vaccinations up-to-date and worm him regularly

·      Look after his teeth to avoid infections


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