Wellness: Be sure to keep your senior horse on a deworming schedule that makes sense for their egg-shedding status and a regular vaccination schedule that reflects their lifestyle and risks. Yearly vaccinations should include:
A core vaccine that covers Tetanus, Rabies, Encephalitis diseases, and West Nile Virus
Potomac Horse Fever (endemic in Mid-Michigan!)
If exposed to horses from other properties or taken off farm: Equine Influenza Virus (EIV) and Equine Herpes Virus (EHV)
Feed: Is your senior horse overweight or underweight? Managing their feed is vital to their longevity! If overweight, it’s worth it to begin measuring hay, grass, and grain intake in addition to checking their blood work for endocrine disease. If your horse is underweight, it may be time to switch to a complete Senior feed that can supplement the calories they’re unable to get from hay. Other common causes of weight loss can include a high worm burden that can be identified by fecal egg count and dental troubles. Your SVEC veterinarian can help you create an individualized nutrition and dental plan that supports your senior.
Dentistry: If your horse is dropping feed, not eating as much as they used to, is losing weight, or has a strange odor coming from the nose or mouth, a dental is likely needed. While every horse should have an oral exam once yearly, some senior horses need a full dental every 6 months.
Preparing for Weather: Senior horses have a tougher time with major temperature changes. If your horse isn’t producing the best winter coat, blanketing them in the winter can help conserve calories and keep weight on. Be sure to check water sources daily for freezing. In the summer, be sure that they have access to cool shade and clean water sources.
Cushing’s Disease (PPID): As horses age, they become more likely to develop Cushing’s disease. This disease results in reduced immune function, loss of muscle topline, foot problems such as abscesses, and poor coat shedding. This disease is best tested for from November to June.
Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS): Similar to human Type 2 Diabetes, horses can get insulin dysregulation as they age. Senior horses that are overweight with large neck crests and unusual fat deposits are predisposed to laminitis and should have their insulin levels checked.
Arthritis: If your senior horse is becoming stiffer and having more difficulty with mobility, it may be time to consider anti-inflammatories and supplementation. There are injectable products available through your veterinarian that can help with joint lubrication. Anti-inflammatories are now available for long-term use that can support our older companions’ comfort.
Asthma: Many horses with heaves worsen as they age. Environmental management can be key to improving their lung health, whether that be more outdoor time in fresh air and removing hay from barns to reduce dust or keeping them inside during heavy pollen seasons. Talk to your SVEC veterinarian to create a management plan that suits them and additional therapies that can be offered.