Thanks to the advent of geriatric medication, contemporary human life has been extended with ever growing life expectancy, largely because of checking for infectious diseases. It cannot be said with certainty if the same is also true for equine demography. However, applying advanced medicine and surgery may also have a positive impact on the horse population.
There was a time when the lives of most horses were counted by their athletic or reproductive abilities. At present, however, the owners’ perception is changing as they begin to understand that senior horses can have value other than a monetary one. Maybe that’s why the number of geriatric horses is on the rise in the veterinary hospitals.
Older horses are more prone to suffer from certain kinds of ailments. Veterinarians speculate whether it relates to the nutrient digestibility of horses as it does in the case of humans. Aging may cause an inability to digest some essential nutrients, even though the horse may apparently look perfectly healthy. Recently a research team led by Sarah Elzinga, MS, has been working on the digestive problems of aging horses. The team assessed the selected mares’ capacity of digestion by offering them different parameters to see how well the mares digested. This included digestible energy, dry matter, calcium, phosphorus, neutral detergent fiber, crude protein, and fat.
Ms. Elzinga, who is now a Ph.D. student, has compared the ability to digest nutrients in adult and aging horses. The team selected 17 perfectly normal mares for the study of which 9 were adults and the rest, aging horses. At the end of the study, the team concluded that there was no apparent difference between healthy adult horses and their counterpart, senior horses, in regard to their digestibility pattern.
The numbers of aged horses is growing every year and their owners are getting more and more worried about their well being. Fortunately, the results of the research show that healthy aging horses do not need any special diet; they are quite capable of digesting a variety of nutrients just as a horse in its prime can.
Besides digestive problem, aging horses need to deal with many other health conditions such as arthritic joints, weight loss, and dental problems. An arthritic joint is one of the most concerning problems with the aging horses. After being in the service for close to two decades, most horses would begin to slow down. The impact of lowered participation in racing and jumping is going to show up sooner or later and ultimately would force the horse to retire.
Nevertheless, weight loss is not a serious issue for all the senior horses. Often it is associated with some dental problems. Both of these problems put many horse owners in great troubles. It is often seen that despite good care, some senior horses lose weight and the owners of those horses remain in the dark as to what the problem is about.
There is no reason to panic though. Owners should be cautious with their equine friends, ensuring that they don't get any of the commonly affected preventable diseases. Consulting their vets at regular intervals and taking the horses for health examination every year should become a common practice among horse owners.
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