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Assessment of clinical characteristics, management practices, and activities of geriatric horses

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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, management practices, and owner perception of a population of geriatric horses, and to compare these data with findings in a group of younger horses.

Design—Original study.

Animals—218 horses.

Procedure—Data were collected via a survey tool from owners of 165 horses that were > 20 years of age and 53 horses that were < 20 years of age.

Results—Compared with young horses, the geriatric group included a significantly greater number of ponies; geriatric horses were also more likely to have a history of colic, dental disease, tumors, lameness, and pituitary disease, but not laminitis, diarrhea, allergies, respiratory tract disease, thyroid disease, or fractures. Horses that had participated in Western equestrian disciplines were more likely to have a history of lameness. Among old horses, those with pituitary dysfunction were more likely to have a history of laminitis than those without pituitary dysfunction. Geriatric horses were more likely to have long hair and shedding abnormalities than were younger horses. Owners perceived their horses as old at approximately 22 years of age. In horses older than 16.5 years of age, age was a negative factor in the purchase of horses.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Geriatric and young horses share some similar health problems, but old horses have distinct health problems and veterinary medical requirements. The management and athletic history of horses may influence health as they age. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:99–103)

Abstract

Objective—To describe the demographic and clinical characteristics, management practices, and owner perception of a population of geriatric horses, and to compare these data with findings in a group of younger horses.

Design—Original study.

Animals—218 horses.

Procedure—Data were collected via a survey tool from owners of 165 horses that were > 20 years of age and 53 horses that were < 20 years of age.

Results—Compared with young horses, the geriatric group included a significantly greater number of ponies; geriatric horses were also more likely to have a history of colic, dental disease, tumors, lameness, and pituitary disease, but not laminitis, diarrhea, allergies, respiratory tract disease, thyroid disease, or fractures. Horses that had participated in Western equestrian disciplines were more likely to have a history of lameness. Among old horses, those with pituitary dysfunction were more likely to have a history of laminitis than those without pituitary dysfunction. Geriatric horses were more likely to have long hair and shedding abnormalities than were younger horses. Owners perceived their horses as old at approximately 22 years of age. In horses older than 16.5 years of age, age was a negative factor in the purchase of horses.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Geriatric and young horses share some similar health problems, but old horses have distinct health problems and veterinary medical requirements. The management and athletic history of horses may influence health as they age. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:99–103)