A research project has found that geriatric horses receive fewer vet visits, vaccinations and farrier visits as they get older. The study also found that many geriatric horses show clinical signs of disease that may not have been recognised by the owner.
A research project from the University of Liverpool has found that geriatric horses receive fewer vet visits, vaccinations and farrier visits as they get older. The study also found that many geriatric horses show clinical signs of disease that may not have been recognised by the owner.
The research was carried out by surveying owners living in North-west England and North Wales who have a horse aged 15 years or older. The area surveyed is thought to be representative of the UK as a whole.
A total of 918 owners of geriatric horses were surveyed and 200 of these horses were randomly selected to be given a clinical examination by equine vet Joanne Ireland. The research, which is funded by The Horse Trust, is led by Gina Pinchbeck, senior lecturer in equine epidemiology at the University of Liverpool.
From the questionnaire, the researchers found that as they get older, geriatric horses were less likely to have an annual routine veterinary visit. In addition, with increasing age, fewer geriatric horses were vaccinated against flu and tetanus, and received fewer farrier visits. The fewer routine visits meant there was a reduced opportunity for the vet to identify problems.
When the geriatric horses were given a clinical examination, a high prevalence of lameness, dental disease and respiratory problems was found. In some cases these problems had not been recognised by owners.
Dr Pinchbeck said: “This research shows that we need to do more to educate both horse owners and vets about the needs of geriatric horses. We also need to give owners information about how to recognise the signs of common illnesses that may affect their older horse. The owners involved in this study visibly cared about the welfare of their horse, but weren’t always aware of the specific needs of geriatric horses.”
Dr Pinchbeck said it can be difficult to distinguish between normal aging and signs of disease, so regular veterinary visits are important to help with early detection of these health problems. She also claimed that owners of geriatric horses sometimes have misconceptions about issues such as vaccination, or the symptoms of conditions.
She explained: “Owners sometimes think that because their geriatric horse doesn’t travel, it doesn’t need to be vaccinated. But they often have other horses on the yard that do travel and could pass on the disease.”
For the final stage of the project, the researchers have followed around 700 of the surveyed horses for 18 months to gather data on diseases and causes of death among geriatric horses. To help with this research, The Horse Trust has provided information from The Home of Rest, which provides sanctuary to around 100 geriatric horses. The findings of this final stage of the study will be available in the autumn.