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Demographic and clinical characteristics of geriatric horses: 467 cases (1989–1999)

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  • 1 Department of Clinical and Population Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN 55108.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.

Abstract

Objective—To describe the demographic and clinical characteristics of a population of geriatric horses.

Design—Retrospective study.

Animals—467 horses that were ≥ 20 years of age.

Procedure—Medical records of 539 geriatric horses that were evaluated at a university large animal hospital between 1989 and 1999 were reviewed. Data collected included signalment, reason for evaluation, specific diagnoses, surgical procedures, inpatient or outpatient care, duration of hospitalization, and outcome.

Results—467 horses met the criteria for inclusion in the study. Horses that were ≥ 20 years of age comprised 2.2 and 12.5% of horses evaluated during 1989 and 1999, respectively. Pony breeds were significantly overrepresented in the ≥ 30-years-of-age group. Gastrointestinal tract, musculoskeletal, and respiratory tract problems were most frequently reported. Colic was the most common clinical sign, followed by lameness. Diagnoses made most frequently included pituitary dysfunction, strangulating lipoma of the small intestine, laminitis, heaves, large colon impaction, and gastric ulcers. Pituitary dysfunction was significantly more prevalent in horses that were > 30 years of age. Laminitis was significantly associated with the presence of pituitary dysfunction.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—It was difficult to assess association of age with illnesses identified in these horses. Demographic data and information regarding common diseases of horses that are ≥ 20 years of age are limited but will become increasingly important as this geriatric population increases. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:93–98)

Abstract

Objective—To describe the demographic and clinical characteristics of a population of geriatric horses.

Design—Retrospective study.

Animals—467 horses that were ≥ 20 years of age.

Procedure—Medical records of 539 geriatric horses that were evaluated at a university large animal hospital between 1989 and 1999 were reviewed. Data collected included signalment, reason for evaluation, specific diagnoses, surgical procedures, inpatient or outpatient care, duration of hospitalization, and outcome.

Results—467 horses met the criteria for inclusion in the study. Horses that were ≥ 20 years of age comprised 2.2 and 12.5% of horses evaluated during 1989 and 1999, respectively. Pony breeds were significantly overrepresented in the ≥ 30-years-of-age group. Gastrointestinal tract, musculoskeletal, and respiratory tract problems were most frequently reported. Colic was the most common clinical sign, followed by lameness. Diagnoses made most frequently included pituitary dysfunction, strangulating lipoma of the small intestine, laminitis, heaves, large colon impaction, and gastric ulcers. Pituitary dysfunction was significantly more prevalent in horses that were > 30 years of age. Laminitis was significantly associated with the presence of pituitary dysfunction.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—It was difficult to assess association of age with illnesses identified in these horses. Demographic data and information regarding common diseases of horses that are ≥ 20 years of age are limited but will become increasingly important as this geriatric population increases. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:93–98)