Stuart Thorne from Fellowes Farm Equine Clinic crunches the numbers after the recent publication of this year’s National Equine survey.
The National Equine survey was published after looking at the health status of more than 15,000 horses. The information it provides not only makes interesting reading, but is hugely useful to both horse owner and vet alike.
UK horses – breakdown of health problems;
Skin disease – 31%
Lameness – 23%
Metabolic disease – 8.1 %
Eye problems – 7.6%
Gastrointestinal problems 7.5%
Dental problems - 5.5%
Others – 17.3
If we looking at the top two offenders (skin disease and lameness) in more detail, it can be seen that within the category of skin disease, the two most common conditions are sweet itch and mud fever, accounting for about 40% of cases.
The other skin conditions included sarcoids, melanomas and wounds.
Interestingly, in the lameness category up to 26% of horses with back pain also had lameness.
This doesn’t prove that the two are related, but certainly supports the common observation that horses with lameness ‘stiffen their backs’ as a protective mechanism and therefore develop muscle pain.
This muscle pain can be misinterpreted as a primary back pain rather than secondary to lameness.
In summary, it's clear that back pain associated with lameness, sweet itch and mud fever all have a significant impact on equine welfare.
These clinical conditions worsen significantly if left untreated and become more difficult to resolve once they become chronic.
The survey therefore highlights the importance of rapid identification of a problem, accurate diagnosis and rapid and appropriate treatment.