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Equine - Senior Care - How to Properly Care For a Senior Horse

What is the life expectancy of a horse?

These days, horses live much longer than they were 10, 15 years ago. It's not uncommon for a horse to live into the thirties, even mid-thirties; ponies and donkeys tend to live even longer than that, potentially to 35, but we've had a couple of 40-year-old patients in our practice.

Dr. Rena Chang
Tennessee Equine Hospital

How does getting older impact the health of my horse?

As your horse ages, just like in humans, you start to get more aches and pains and have more problems. Older horses, especially if they've had a career as a performance animal, tend to have arthritis, so they get more aches and pains. Some of these horses can have some problems getting around in the field, getting up and down to sleep. Many times, these guys are on a bit of Equioxx, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. Equioxx is healthier for them than, say, Bute or Banamine long term. And these horses are typically on it once a day indefinitely. That medicine can help their quality of life, keeping up with their herd mates, being able to sleep when they're in the stall, and not having a hard time getting up due to aches and pains. I know I certainly have aches and pains and have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

The other thing that older horses have problems with sometimes is eating. As they get older, they start to lose their teeth and begin to have issues with chewing, mostly hay. These older guys usually require more TLC when it comes to proper nutrition. After about 15 years old, I typically start recommending a senior feed, which is easier for them to chew and digest the nutrients to maintain their weight properly. Some of these horses even need to stay off hay because they just can't chew it properly. So you want to keep an eye out if you see little quids, rolled up cigars of hay in their stall, which typically means that your horse is having problems chewing the hay. And we probably need to come out and do a good oral exam on them and see if there's anything we can do to make them eat better.

Does my horse still need regular wellness exams as they get older?

They are more likely to need a wellness exam as they get older. As I mentioned, having a vet come out and take a good look at their teeth is always important. Then, there is also organ function to consider, sp we make sure that their kidney and their liver are healthy. Older horses are also more predisposed to things like Cushing's. So we can do a blood test to make sure that they don't have any problems with Cushing's and how it affects their feed and their ability to fight off infections.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (615) 591-1232, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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