Is Your Senior Getting Leaner?

Could feed/treats cause a horse’s sides to sink in? Like, right where the quarters and the stifle are sinks in. Is this normal? She’s an older horse, I didn’t know if it had to do with age or too many treats or just too much sugar?
– Thanks, Savannah

Dear Savannah,

Thanks for an interesting question! Because I’m not so sure that feed or treats—given appropriately—could cause a horse’s sides to sink in, I’m going to advise you to have your mare examined by a veterinarian to make sure nothing serious is going on.

Since she’s an older horse, I’m concerned that she’s thin or rapidly losing weight. Do you know what her body condition score (BCS) is? This is a scale is used by the horse industry to assess the degree of body fat in relation to body muscle. Scores range from 1 = emaciated to 9 = obese with 5 usually being considered ideal. I’m also concerned that at her age she may have a disease like Cushing’s, liver or kidney issues, dental abnormalities, or some other medical issue that could quickly cause her to deteriorate. Finally, I’m not exactly sure from your description where on your mare’s body she is sunken in, but I wonder if dehydration or lack of gut fill could be a factor. Because of all these concerns, getting a veterinarian out to look at her would make me (and probably you) feel a lot better!

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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Posted in Ask the Vet, Weight Management

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