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Horse Weight Loss

I have a horse that had a previous Body Condition Score (BCS) of 5. I have had the equine dentist out to examine him and perform a routine checkup. I also had the veterinarian take a blood sample, which everything was within normal limits. However, my horse does not bit well and still drops his food while eating. His BCS now is at 4. What can I do to improve this? Leonardo

Dear Leonardo,

Was your horse dropping food and not bitting well when he had the ideal body condition score (BCS) of 5? Or are these new problems that occurred simultaneously with his weight loss? If so, then I would get a second opinion on the health of his mouth, because the first dentist might have missed something. Dropping food while eating is not normal and tells me there could still be an issue with his teeth or oral cavity. A physical examination by a veterinarian and bloodwork was a good idea. Did you happen to discuss parasites or have fecal tests performed also? They can be a reason for weight loss too.

Of course, you want to make sure that your horse is receiving at least 50% of his diet (1% of his body weight) in good-quality forage and the rest of his required vitamins, minerals, protein from either the full amount of fortified grain as recommended on the bag, a ration balancer, or a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. In your horse’s case, as long as he doesn’t have any metabolic issues, I would probably stick to grain since it will provide calories that these other products don’t.

Alfalfa hay, beet pulp and fat supplements are additional ways to add calories but first make sure your horse doesn’t have medical issues. The list of possible causes of weight loss in horses is long, and without knowing his age, workload, environment and other factors, it’s hard to give any other specific recommendations except continue to work with your veterinarian and dentist to make sure he’s healthy.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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Posted in Ask the Vet, Weight Management

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3 comments on “Horse Weight Loss
  1. Jackie says:

    I have a 27yr old gelding that has had cronic diaherea. I put him on a probiotic and the symptom goes away, but after taking him off the symptom comes back. He looses weight quickly when taking him off the probiotics. Is this just because of his age? or should I pursue this further with a vet? What could be going on with him?
    Thank you for your time,

  2. MARJORIE says:


  3. Kenya says:

    I have experienced a few horses that I have purchased that were severly underwieght, I have found ways to put weight on but in the long run its expensive,so what I have found out that its important to use a Vet Dentist only that specialized in the teeth only. Its amazing how much more they know and see and can do to help! My horses teeth top and bottom were in a 50 percent incline so to say it was long and went up in a angle in his front teeth, this was a huge issue to his wieght problem, it took more than one time to the Dentist but in the long run it was good for him and my pocket book!! Probiotics are a huge importance as well they utilize the feed in their stomach so they dont waste it out, they keep the good in!! So reasearch your options than just putting fillers thats just a temp bandaid.

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