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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 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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One comment on “Is Your Senior Getting Leaner?
  1. J Jackson says:

    I have two horses in my small herd, one gelding 15 yrs. old, the other 22.
    Both of them are what I would say are in good health, well fed, and have had a dental within the past year – they are not thin in the gut yet you can see their ribs. They just don’t have a layer of fat over their rib cage as I think they should. Is there something I could do to increase their fat intake or change their feed to best accommodate their needs. Both have daily pasture time (not lush) but are also fed good grass hay at least three times a day. I will bump them up to a grass-alfy combo soon and then to straight alfalfa if needed. Your comment please.

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