The Horse

SEP 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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22 THE HORSE September 2018 to deal with the problem early on, says Dwyer. This annual or biannual visit might include a sedated dental exam using a speculum; an eye exam; and geriatric blood screening, which could include a complete blood cell count and chemistry profile and/or tests for PPID. The most commonly used tests for di- agnosing and/or monitoring PPID include those for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH, excessive levels of which can lead to PPID) and insulin levels. Insulin resistance—a decrease in tissue sensitivity to insulin—occurs in about one-third of PPID cases and increases risk for develop- ing laminitis. Veterinarians might also perform an oral sugar test or the com- bined glucose-insulin test (CGIT) and, less frequently, the overnight dexametha- sone suppression test (ODST). "Blood testing, the type that we're recommending, is not prohibitively expensive," says Dwyer, adding that even though your veterinarian might recom- mend a variety of endocrine tests, indi- vidually they are relatively affordable. Malalana also recommends scheduling at least one detailed eye examination a year to look for inflammatory conditions. "I would also advise owners to contact their vet immediately if they notice any ocular pain or ocular discharge," he says. "Our research has suggested that eye dis- charge may be the only sign owners may notice when there is, in fact, something more serious going on with the eye." Paradis found during one survey that 10% of participants were still competing with 20-plus-year-old horses. "If you are going to compete an older horse," says Paradis, "you need to think about the training. If they've been laid off, it's going to take longer to get them to fitness than it would a younger horse." She also cautions against using senior horses as weekend warriors—riding them hard one day and then laying them up all week. "You want to make sure they are doing something every day," she says. Older horses that have problems chew- ing or digesting feed might need dietary changes. It's important to work with your veterinarian because each horse has his own nutritional needs, especially if he has endocrine issues, an inability to main- tain weight secondary to a disease, or an increased risk of laminitis. Horse owners must be prepared to spend money on medication. In the Bros- nahan study owners reported that 25% of old horses versus 6% of young horses were on regular medications. These were either for pain relief, recurrent airway obstruction, or PPID. Brosnahan found that more than half of the older horses examined were also on a supplement, with 66% receiving a general vitamin/mineral supplement and 47% receiving a joint care supplement. Many owners also find chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and massage therapy to be helpful for managing vari- ous older horse conditions, says Paradis. Realize that expenses can change as the horse ages. "The feed costs may change because processed foods for digestion are more expensive than less processed foods," says Dwyer, referring to senior feeds on the market. "Sometimes farrier costs decrease slightly as horses go from being active competitors, where they need special shoes, to more barefoot manage- ment. What will go up will be oral care." In Summary Dwyer sums up her senior horse care advice with the main thing she says own- ers need to think about: "If you are going to keep your horse into old age, be aware that old age can go well into the 30s," she says. "No one can predict which issues that particular horse is going to have, but every geriatric horse is going to have some issues. Whatever those issues are, they will bring some expense over and above the normal husbandry costs." h The Price of Longevity Heart murmurs are extremely common in senior horses but rarely cause issue.

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